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Chargers get going early in road win over Chiefs

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For years, the San Diego Chargers have had trouble flying east and playing well in games that start at noon in the Central Time Zone. That's a body-clock kickoff at 10 a.m. for the guys from San Diego.

But Sunday, the Chargers woke up bright eyed, rolled into Arrowhead Stadium and bashed the Kansas City Chiefs 37-20. San Diego is now 3-1 this season and holds first place in the AFC West after the first quarter of the season.

"I think our guys really responded well starting on Wednesday when we came back in after losing that game," quarterback Philip Rivers said of the Chargers, who were coming off their first loss of the season last weekend, falling 27-3 to Atlanta. "Every day, we just kept our focus going forward and not looking backward."

The Chiefs actually played like a team that might be suffering from jet lag. As has been their custom this season, they fell behind early and were never able to catch up. They've been outscored in the first three quarters 120-46, trailing San Diego by 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter.

"We didn't play a very good football game today in any phase," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. "I don't understand what happened with the team. I thought it was uncharacteristic of us."

Crennel was speaking about the Kansas City turnovers, six in all that provided the Chargers with plenty of opportunities.

"I thought we had a great performance from our defense," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "One of the things we've been talking about is creating negative plays. It gives us a chance to use the skills we have."

Antoine Cason, Eric Weddle and Donald Butler had interceptions for San Diego's defense, and Shaun Phillips, Atari Bigby and Corey Liuget recovered fumbles. That's six of the 11 defensive starters that handled the takeaways.

The Chiefs stress ball security every day that they are on the practice field, but they now have 15 giveaways and it's the biggest reason they are now 1-3.

"Turnovers have been killing us," Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said. "We've got to solve it and we've got to solve it quick."

In the first half, the Chiefs turned the ball over five times and San Diego turned those into 17 points. They didn't need much more, when combined with a touchdown after the opening kickoff when Rivers led the Chargers on a nine-play drive, finding wide receiver Eddie Royal for a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Weddle had the first San Diego takeaway on an interception. That led to a 24-yard field goal from Nick Novak. Just over two minutes later, running back Jamaal Charles fumbled and Phillips recovered the ball at the Chiefs' 5-yard line. Running back Jackie Battle scored on a 1-yard run and the PAT kick made it 17-0.

About seven minutes into the second quarter, Novak's 47-yard field goal pushed it to 20-0 before Charles fumbled again and San Diego's Liuget recovered. Rivers threw an interception to cornerback Brandon Flowers and that provided a spark for the Chiefs offense, as it drove for a touchdown scored by Charles on 37-yard run. The PAT kick was botched on a bad snap, but the Chiefs were on the board, 20-6. A Cassel pass was intercepted by Butler, who returned it 21 yards for a touchdown and the first half ended 27-6.

After halftime the Chiefs momentarily got their act together, going on an 80-yard drive in 13 plays, finishing with a 14-yard scoring pass and run from Cassel to Charles. The PAT kick was good and Kansas City trailed 27-13.

Both teams added fourth quarter scores -- Battle caught a 4-yard TD pass from Rivers and Bowe caught one for 29 yards from Cassel. Novak added a late 45-yard field goal for the final score.

Notes: Charles was the NFL's leading rusher going into the game and finished with 92 yards ... Bowe caught seven passes for 108 yards ... Jared Gaither started at left tackle for the Chargers, his first appearance of the 2012 season ... The Chargers were forced to make a change at kicker after Nate Kaeding came down with a groin problem late last week. They signed Novak, who kicked for San Diego last season.
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