The Chiefs-Chargers rivalry has produced nail biters in the past, and Sunday’s 23-20 win by the Chiefs wasn’t different.
Week 7’s victory pushed the Chiefs to 3-3 and could become the catalyst for the Chiefs to go on a run in the remaining 10 games, a scenario once thought impossible after the 0-2 start to the season.
The win is big on another front when considering it came against an AFC West team, and it keeps the Chiefs two games off the pace from the Chargers (5-2) and Denver Broncos (5-1).
There are, of course, numerous areas and scenarios to ponder in the days leading to Week 8, but here are five highs and lows to consider from Week 7:
• Game stories are generally written with the dominant statistic in mind, and there’s one area proving impossible to ignore. The Chiefs successfully utilized a keep-away mission from the potent Chargers offense with a whopping 39 minutes time of possession to the Chargers’ 21 minutes. The offensive game plan was so effective the Chargers only had three offensive plays in the entire third quarter. Three.
• The Chiefs defense for the most part executed a solid game plan, applying pressure on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers with two sacks (one each by outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston) and holding the Chargers to convert 3-of-10 on third down (30 percent). San Diego entered Week 7’s game converting on 53.8 percent of third down attempts. The Chiefs defense also limited the Chargers to 251 total yards, well below the former average of 378.2 yards per game. Houston, who enters the final year of his contract, now has seven sacks on the season, giving him 33 ½ on his career. Another defensive nugget: The Chiefs have yet to allow a rushing touchdown on the season, joining the Buffalo Bills as the only two teams in the NFL to not allow a rushing touchdown.
• Rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines drew his first career start at the nickel position in place of Chris Owens, while Jamell Fleming surprisingly drew the start at left cornerback in place of Marcus Cooper. Fleming, who finished the game with a team-leading six tackles, settled down as the game wore on after getting picked on early, but Gaines had a coming out party despite not recording a tackle. Gaines was credited with a pass defensed in the box score, but it appeared he had at least two pass breakups, one coming in the fourth quarter against wide receiver Keenan Allen.
• Rookie kicker Cairo Santos connected on 3-of-3 field goal attempts, including the game-winning kick from 48 yards with 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Santos may have effectively erased the lingering memories of his early season inconsistency. He is now 8-of-10 on field goal attempts for the season, including six straight successful attempts.
• Running back Jamaal Charles made history Sunday by becoming the Chiefs’ all-time yards rushing leader. Charles rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, giving him 6,113 yards rushing on his seven-year career. Priest Holmes held the previous rushing record with 6,070 yards.
• Chiefs wide receivers Junior Hemingway and Dwayne Bowe dropped passes they should’ve caught. Hemingway’s drop came on a slant across the middle where he had nobody in front of him. He later left the game before halftime with a hamstring injury. Bowe’s noticeable drop came just beyond the first down marker when the ball hit him in his hands. Bowe, however, finished the game with five catches for 84 yards. Meanwhile, no Chiefs wide receiver found the end zone Sunday, meaning the Chiefs wide receiver corps has gone six games without scoring a touchdown. A.J. Jenkins should’ve had a touchdown, but he stepped out of bounds on the right sideline on a play where they were no defenders in front of him.
• The Chiefs entered Week 7 allowing just 11 passing plays of 20 or more yards before allowing four against the Chargers. Tight end Antonio Gates recorded two separate plays of 27 yards, which included a touchdown reception; wide receiver Eddie Royal recorded a 20-yard catch; and wide receiver Malcom Floyd had a 24-yard catch.
• The left side of Chiefs’ offensive line had issues on the fourth possession. Left guard Mike McGlynn was beat twice. The first allowed Chargers defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi to drop running back Knile Davis for an 8-yard loss, and then Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget used a swim move two plays later to get inside of McGlynn to sack Alex Smith. Left tackle Eric Fisher also surrendered a sack on the drive. The Chiefs, however, overcame the blunders by scoring a field goal to cap off the 14-play, 56-yard drive that consumed 9:31 off the clock.
• The Chargers sacked Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith three times Sunday, pushing the total times he’s been sacked on the season to 16. Smith is on pace to be sacked 42 times on the season. His career-high times sacked is 44, which occurred in 2011 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
• The Chiefs tied a season-high seven penalties Sunday with the last time the team recorded that many penalties coming in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs also established a new season-high in penalty yards with 73 against the Chargers.