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Chargers win 20-17

Posted Sep 25, 2011

San Diego holds off defending AFC West champ Kansas City in a physical divisional game at Qualcomm Stadium behind two Ryan Mathews touchdown runs and a late Eric Weddle interception.

SAN DIEGO – What a difference a year makes.

The Chargers (2-1) ground out a 20-17 win against Kansas City (0-3) on Sunday to keep pace with the Raiders in the AFC West.

San Diego’s defense held the Chiefs without a first down until early in the third quarter and two Ryan Mathews touchdown runs were enough for the Bolts. Nick Novak also kicked field goals of 35 and 41 yards for the Chargers against his former team.

“What I would say about this team is that we’re 2-1,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “Our goal now is to be 3-1. (But) we have to get better, there’s no question.”

The Chargers built a 10-point lead three different times, including 20-10 after Novak’s second field goal with 8:07 left. But Matt Cassel threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Leonard Pope on the next drive, and a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak in Chiefs territory by Philip Rivers fell inches shy.

The Chiefs reached San Diego territory with about one minute left needing a field goal to tie. Takeo Spikes huddled the defense near the Chargers’ 35-yard line.

“I was like, ‘Who’s going to make a play?’ I’m hearing four, five guys: ‘I’m going to make the play,’” Spikes said. “It was a great opportunity for us to step up to the plate.”

Eric Weddle recognized a screen pass to Dexter McCluster, made an explosive break on the ball and intercepted Cassel near midfield. Without both starting defensive ends, one starting cornerback, the starting strong safety and a backup defensive lineman, the Chargers gave ground to Kansas City in the second half. Cassel completed 17-of-24 passes for 176 yards, but San Diego made a stand in the game’s most crucial moment.

“Happiest moment of the day for me,” Antonio Garay said. “Good job, Weddle.”

Rivers kneeled twice and the Chargers squeezed out a victory in their first divisional game of the season.

Mathews fell two rushing yards short of his second 100-yard game but scored on runs of two and four yards. He also caught four passes for 51 yards.

Turner improved to 26-8 in the regular season at Qualcomm Stadium.

“The biggest issue for me right now with our entire football team is we’re not in sync in terms of playing the entire game in the type of rhythm we’d like,” Turner said. “That’s something that’s going to come. We have some guys who haven’t been together a whole lot on both sides of the ball.”

Said Mike Tolbert: “Division games are always physical and tough. Nose-bleeders, so to speak. Whenever you can get out there and just grind it and go at it, it’s a good feeling to come out on top.”

Congratulations to @AthleteInsider for your winning Tweet the Headline submission used in this article.

The San Diego Chargers and Motorola are giving Chargers fans around the world a chance to show support for their team when they "Tweet the Headline" for every Chargers home game during the 2010 season. Fans can submit their headline on Twitter at the conclusion of each Chargers home game. One winning submission will be selected to headline a story on the Chargers' official website, Chargers.com. The headline will also be featured on the Chargers' official Twitter and Facebook pages. The person who submits the winning headline will receive a Chargers gift bag.  At the end of the season one lucky winner will receive a Motorola XOOM.

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