Another 8-8 record probably won’t be enough to get the San Diego Chargers another AFC West title. The Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, would likely be thrilled with a .500 record at the end of the season.
After two straight humbling defeats left the Chargers way behind in the division, they look to avoid hitting a new low Sunday against a Chiefs team coming off its first victory.
San Diego (2-3) hoped a bye week would help it fix the problems that led to a 38-28 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 4, but its defense had another terrible game in a 34-23 loss to Denver on Monday night.
A late-season meltdown by the Broncos allowed the Chargers to win the division title last season despite going 8-8, but San Diego will need to end its problems in a hurry if it hopes to win a fourth straight AFC West championship. Denver is 6-0, and San Diego is closer to last-place Kansas City (1-5) than it is to the division leader.
San Diego could only muster one-point wins in its two matchups last season with Kansas City, which went 2-14.
The Chiefs (1-5) ended a nine-game losing streak last Sunday with a 14-6 win over Washington, giving coach Todd Haley his first victory.
“It’s a big weight off your shoulders,” Chiefs defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey(notes) said. “You don’t want to be one of those teams without a win. We want to build on it and, hopefully, we can come out next week and get another one.”
Opposing quarterbacks have completed 74.6 percent of their passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception in their last two games versus San Diego. Cassel hasn’t been picked off in his last four games while throwing for six TDs.
Rivers continues to be steady for the Chargers despite getting pressured much more often than coach Norv Turner would like. He’s been sacked 15 times this season, including a career-high five against the Broncos.
“Philip does a good job in the pocket in finding the soft areas,” Turner said. “We’ve got to do some things where we can get the ball out quicker to help him, based on what people are doing to us.”
Rivers has still managed to throw for 1,519 yards and seven TDs while getting picked off three times. He isn’t getting nearly as much help from San Diego’s running game as he has in past seasons.
San Diego is tied for last in the NFL in rushing with 57.6 yards per game.
Kansas City is ranked 25th in that category, gaining an average of 98.0 yards, but it had 110 against Washington.
Larry Johnson(notes) helped complement a strong defensive performance with a gritty effort running the ball, gaining a season-high 83 yards on 23 carries. But the outcome remained in doubt until linebacker Tamba Hali(notes) tackled Todd Collins(notes) for a safety in the final minute.
Counting an 0-4 exhibition record, Kansas City had been 0-9 under Haley and general manager Scott Pioli.
“It’s real nice to know that we’re heading in the right direction and all the work that we’re doing is paying off,” Dorsey said. “It’s nice to know the things we’re doing, the practices, the meetings, are paying off.”
The Chiefs’ next challenge is to create some momentum by avoiding a third consecutive home loss to the Chargers—something that hasn’t happened since 1979-81.
“I think it’s a big test for us,” Haley said. “It’s the next step in the development of this team. It’s a problem for some teams and not for others. I just think it’s very important that we understand the task at hand and having another very good week of practice and building on this performance.”