Oct 23, 2006

Chiefs Shock Chargers with Dramatic 30-27 Win

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Q&A QB Damon Huard
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There is never a lack of dramatics in the AFC West. The latest installment of the Chiefs-Chargers rivalry had all the makings of another classic as Kansas City pulled out a last-second 30-27 win in front of a hysterical Arrowhead Stadium crowd. K Lawrence Tynes helped give the Chiefs a huge boost of momentum by nailing a 53-yard game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining to even the club’s record to 3-3 on the season.

Protecting the football is always vital in the NFL, but cashing in on turnovers with points may be even more important. So when the Chiefs failed to convert on an early RB LaDainian Tomlinson fumble in San Diego territory, it appeared to be an early turning point in the game.

However, the Chiefs defense would force two more turnovers before the end of the first quarter allowing their offense a second and third chance to swing the first blow. The first mulligan came midway through the first quarter when San Diego QB Philip Rivers overthrew his receiver and watched S Greg Wesley pick it off at the SD 40-yard line. Wesley brought it back to the Chargers 11-yard line and watched his teammates use just one play to find the end zone. QB Damon Huard floated a pass over San Diego’s zone defense and into the arms of TE Kris Wilson – who made his first career start at fullback – for a touchdown.

On the Chargers next possession, DE Jared Allen sacked and stripped Rivers and DE Tamba Hali jumped on the fumble at the San Diego 32-yard line. An 11-yard run from RB Larry Johnson set up Huard’s second TD pass of the game, this time to WR Eddie Kennison in the back of the end zone for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.

“Those were real big,” Johnson said of the Chargers early turnovers. “Plus, being able to take those turnovers and turn them into points - that’s when we jumped off and kept the momentum going. In the third and fourth quarters we knew we weren’t going to fail.”

After Pittsburgh posted 45 points a week ago against Kansas City, the Chiefs defense came out fuming against the Chargers. San Diego entered the game with the NFL’s third-ranked offense, but watched Kansas City dominate the line of scrimmage early on. The Chargers first four possessions resulted in next to nothing: a fumble, a three-and-out, an interception and a fumble.

“We were just getting off the ball and we had the will to get it done,” Allen explained. “We knew before the game that we had to get to him [Philip Rivers] and that we had to put pressure on him. We knew if we could force him to throw a quicker pass that we would minimize what their receivers can do to us. That was our goal. The D-line and the DBs had to cover. We got a couple of coverage sacks because of that.”

San Diego would finally crack the scoreboard early in the second quarter when K Nate Kaeding booted a 39-yard field goal to bring the score to 14-3.

Huard and company responded with their best drive of the contest, a 73-yard march that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown run from Johnson. Huard’s 57-yard completion to TE Tony Gonzalez (six catches for 138 yards) down the middle set up the club’s third touchdown of the day. Tynes’ extra point attempt would hit the right upright, leaving the score at 20-3. Tynes would get a chance to atone for the mistake before the game was over.

Kaeding’s 31-yard field goal cut the Chiefs lead at 20-6 at the half and may have jump-started the Chargers comeback. Thanks to a 50-yard punt return from San Diego WR Eric Parker just after intermission the Chargers had a short field at the KC 26-yard line. Rivers capitalized on the field position by tossing a one-yard TD pass to TE Antonio Gates to bring his team to within seven at 20-13.

Just as the Chargers were started to feel good about their standing in the game, Kansas City took the air out of the football with a rugged 14-play, 89-yard drive that gobbled up nearly 8:00 off the clock. San Diego had boasted the NFL’s top defense heading into the game and hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season, but Johnson pounded out 38 of his game-high 132 rushing yards on the drive, including a one-yard TD run. LJ’s second score of the game gave the Chiefs a 27-13 lead after three quarters.

Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Tomlinson took over on the Chargers next possession. The three-time Pro Bowler accounted for all but eight yards of San Diego’s 66-yard scoring drive, bringing his club within seven points at 27-20. After an 11-yard reception and a 16-yard run from Tomlinson, the Chargers faced fourth-and-three in KC territory. The Chiefs brought an all-out blitz on the deciding play, leaving Tomlinson wide open on a screen pass, which he turned upfield and took untouched for the score.

The Chiefs mustered one first down on their next possession and were forced to punt the ball away. The Chargers drive would stall after a 14-yard first down completion to TE Antonio Gates was challenged by the Chiefs and overturned forcing a punt. Kansas City gave the ball right back however when Huard fumbled on a sack at the KC 23-yard line. Tomlinson made the turnover hurt, but this time he was on the passing end, tossing a one-yard TD to Gates on third-and-goal to tie the game at 27-27 with 5:10 remaining.

The Chiefs reached midfield on their next possession, but were forced to punt, giving the Chargers the ball at their own 21-yard line with 1:56 left. San Diego moved the ball out to its own 47-yard line before the Red and Gold defense rose to the challenge. The club’s defensive line bookends Allen and Hali recorded back-to-back sacks on second and third down, forcing a punt and giving their offense one last chance.

In a tie ballgame, the Chiefs took over at their own 18-yard line with just 0:33 left. Huard systematically hit Johnson for a 15-yard gain, then found Gonzalez on a 19-yard pass over the middle, advancing to the SD 48. After another 18-yard hookup with Gonzalez, the Chiefs used their final timeout with 11 seconds at the SD 30-yard line. Tynes banged through a 48-yard try, but a false start penalty on KC moved him back five yards and made him try again.

“I was glad I got to hit one as a warm up,” Tynes said after the game. “I kind of hesitated as I heard the whistle blow. I thought I’d go ahead and hit and see how it went. I hit good and I knew I was going to make that kick.”

Good on his word, Tynes blasted the game-winning field goal from 53 yards out to give the Chiefs a dramatic 30-27 win.

Kansas City hosts the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 noon.

By Patrick Herb