With LaDainian Tomlinson rushing for 177 yards and two touchdowns and the defense getting eight sacks and four turnovers, the Chargers beat Kansas City 24-10 Sunday for their sixth win in eight games. They’re beginning to flash the form that made them 14-2 in the 2006 regular season before Marty Schottenheimer got fired after the playoffs.
“I think we have improved as a football team all the way through,” said Turner, who beat the Chiefs for the first time in seven tries as a head coach. “I know there were some weeks that it didn’t show up.”
It was just the second victory in 11 games in Kansas City for San Diego and put the Chargers (7-5) two games ahead in the AFC West.
The Chiefs (4-8) lost their fifth in a row and could be headed for their worst season in about 20 years.
“It is flat-out embarrassing,” said tight end Tony Gonzalez, who had 10 catches for 140 yards. “I don’t think I’ve lost five games in a row as a Chief. It’s frustrating, because I feel like we’re a lot better team than what we’re playing right now.”
Since the Chiefs beat the Chargers 30-16 and plunged them to 1-3 on Sept. 30 and triggered an outcry against Turner, the Chargers have turned it around.
“We know we control our own destiny, but I wouldn’t say we’re breathing easier,” said quarterback Philip Rivers, who had a 38-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson. “We’re still not pleased at being 7-5. It is certainly better to be where we are than looking up at someone.”
By the middle of the fourth quarter, normally loud and packed Arrowhead Stadium was quiet and about half-empty.
“We just can’t seem to score any points in the fourth quarter coming down the stretch,” said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards.
Tomlinson had only 60 yards on 13 carries in the first half, but came on after intermission with scoring runs of 31 and 28 yards. Tomlinson’s second touchdown was No. 111 in his career and moved him past Walter Payton for third on the all-time list for touchdowns rushing.
“You’ve got to understand, the whole reason I wanted to even play football was seeing him,” Tomlinson said. “I remember watching everything he did, even off the field, the way he talked to kids, the way he talked to people, the way he carried himself.
“It’s definitely an honor just to be mentioned in the same breath with, in my opinion, the greatest running back that has ever played the game.”
Shawne Merriman had three of the eight sacks, which broke the Chiefs’ record of seven allowed in a game. The Chargers also had three interceptions, two off Damon Huard and one off Tyler Thigpen, the third-team quarterback who entered late in the fourth quarter when Huard injured his hand.
“We just kept applying pressure the whole game and we didn’t let up,” said Merriman. “Tony Gonzalez had a good game, but he’s going to do that. He’s one of the best tight ends in the game. It’s hard to contain him.”
Hounded and hurried throughout the cold, windy afternoon by an unrelenting pass rush, Huard was 19-of-34 for 186 yards, with a lost fumble—recovered by Merriman—to go with his two picks.
He was starting for Brodie Croyle. For much of the second half, the Chiefs also had two other starters sidelined, linebacker Donnie Edwards with a hamstring injury and left tackle Damion McIntosh with a knee sprain.
On San Diego’s third touchdown drive, Tomlinson got loose for a 34-yard gain on third down. Then on third-and-1 from the 28, he dashed through a hole on the left side and sped into the end zone for a 24-10 lead with 10:15 to go.
The Chiefs had one bright spot besides Gonzalez. Defensive end Jared Allen, after getting two sacks, shocked the crowd and the Chargers by catching a touchdown pass.
Gonzalez beat triple coverage and made a leaping grab for a 31-yard gain to the 4. On third-and-goal from the 2, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end ran onto the field and lined up on the left side. The Chargers appeared unsure what to make of him.
When the ball was snapped, he took off for the left corner of the end zone with safety Clinton Hart chasing. Allen made an over-the-shoulder basket catch for the TD and a short-lived 10-3 lead.
“The key was to sell the block,” he said. “I probably should have sold it a little longer.”
The announced attendance of 74,874 was the smallest at Arrowhead Stadium in almost six years. … Cromartie, who came into the game leading the NFL with six interceptions, got his seventh when he picked off Huard in the end zone in the first half. … Aided by the swirling, gusting winds, Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt kicked a team-record 81-yard punt into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Head to Head - Week 13
- Peyton Manning storms off Super Bowl field. Is he a poor sport?
- Browns deny lying about Johnny Manziel's concussion
- Broncos parade through Denver, leave questions for later
- Broncos revel in parade amid questions about Manning, Miller
- Raiders cut ties with S Nate Allen after 1 season in Oakland
- Colts release Ryan Lindley, hire 5 new assistant coaches