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Chargers score early and often, down Chiefs
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The Chargers outgained the Chiefs by 200 yards Sunday, forced three turnovers on defense and scored on special teams as they delivered a 37-7 victory in the rain at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday, their largest margin of victory ever in Kansas City.
“I liked the way our guys came out and played,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “We’ve been getting better all along and it was nice to have it show up in the football game.”
The Chargers thrived Sunday in nearly every area where they haven’t had the success they’d like early in the season. They rushed for 135 yards on offense, sacked Matt Cassel four times, didn’t give up a sack on offense, intercepted three passes and held the Chiefs to just 3-of-15 on third down while converting 47 percent of their own third downs.
“Both offensively and defensively, everyone at every position made plays,” said linebacker Shaun Phillips, who had two sacks Sunday. “Hopefully we can use this game as a springboard, build off it and continue to get better each week.”
A 36-yard LaDainian Tomlinson run on the Chargers’ second drive of the afternoon helped San Diego take an early lead. LT’s long run came on the first play of a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a three-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to wide receiver Malcom Floyd.
The Chargers started their next drive in Kansas City territory when their defense stuffed Matt Cassel on a 4th-and-1 play at the Chiefs’ 41-yard line. Eight plays later, Rivers connected with Vincent Jackson for a 10-yard touchdown that put the Bolts up 14-0 late in the first quarter. The two touchdowns gave San Diego the most points they’ve scored in the first quarter this season.
“We executed well early and didn’t have any negative plays,” center Scott Mruczkowski said. “It’s a lot easier to play with a lead and we built one today that really helped us.”
A 51-yard catch by Jackson set up a 20-yard Nate Kaeding field goal that put the Chargers up 17-0 early in the second quarter. Jackson hauled in another 51-yarder later in the quarter to give him 142 yards on five receptions, the most any player in Chargers history has recorded in a single half.
“Vincent is right up there with anybody in the league in going to attack the football down the field,” Rivers said. “He did a great job making plays on those two down the field.”
In the final minute of the second quarter, Kaeding kicked a 39-yard field goal that gave the Chargers a 20-0 halftime lead. It was a half dominated by the Bolts, one that saw them outgain the Chiefs 311-68.
Kansas City got on the board on their opening drive of the third quarter when Cassel hit Dwayne Bowe for a 7-yard touchdown pass to cap a 65-yard drive. But on a day in which San Diego’s defense had it’s best performance of the season, the Chiefs didn’t score again. Kansas City gained just 203 yards and had only three passing plays that gained more than 10 yards while Cassel finished just 10-of-25 for 97 yards.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” safety Eric Weddle said of the defense. “We made tackles, we covered the right people and we got pressure on the quarterback. When you get pressure, you see what happens. Everyone was doing their job. When that happens, you see what we’re capable of.”
The Chargers had five plays of 35 yards or more Sunday, and midway through the third quarter, they got a big one from Darren Sproles that made it a 27-7 game. With the Chiefs blitzing, Sproles slipped into the flat, caught a short pass from Rivers and raced 58-yards for a score.
The Chargers intercepted Cassel twice in the third quarter, one by linebacker Tim Dobbins and one by Paul Oliver, who saw his most significant action of his three-year career on defense. Steve Gregory added another interception early in the fourth quarter that set up Kaeding’s third field goal of the day, a 19-yard kick that pushed the Chargers’ lead to 30-7.
San Diego’s special teams units also provided a score Sunday. Midway through the fourth quarter, Jacob Hester blocked a punt and chased the loose ball nearly 20 yards before falling on it in the end zone to round out the scoring at 37-7.
Rivers was an impressive 18-of-30 for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday. He was aided by a season-best 71-yard performance by Tomlinson. Defensively, Dobbins started in place of the injured Kevin Burnett and posted a team-best 11 tackles to go with his interception.
Following the win which allowed his team to even their record at 3-3, Turner spoke of his pleasure in how his team prepared and performed. They traveled just four days after suffering a tough home loss to Denver and had several players battling the flu throughout the week. Despite the possible distractions, they delivered their best performance of the season.
“It was an extremely short week,” Turner said. “Coming off a tough loss with a lot of exterior talking about it, I thought they did a good job of blocking it out. We did a lot of good things." Read