Defense steals the show

The Chargers offense ran smoothly but it was the defense that stole the show on Sunday against the Chiefs.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Drew Brees had a solid day, as the Chargers decided the way to beat the Chiefs was to heave it instead of letting LaDainian Tomlinson haul it. Brees threw the ball 43 times and collected 324 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Gates had three touchdowns as he showed who the best tight end on the field was this day. The pass-blocking was solid; despite all those passes, Brees wasn't sacked. Don't overlook LaDainian Tomlinson throwing his third touchdown in as many throws.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Not wanting to overwork a patched-up line, the Chargers weren't into running too much. Tomlinson had but 17 carries in the game; eight through three quarters. The run-blocking was decent, but not much more. That's not surprising, considering three linemen were in the game who weren't in the starting lineup in Week 1.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Trent Green had his way with the pass defense, especially in the second half. Green finished with 347 yards and two scores. What's amazing is that despite all those passes, the secondary had but one pass defensed. Sammy Davis did have a career-high 11 tackles.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Chiefs present a big test with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, and the Chargers pretty much met the challenge. They got a break when Holmes left in the third quarter after getting dinged in the head. Overall, the Chiefs gained 95 yards. LB Donnie Edwards had 11 tackles and Stephen Cooper, another insider linebacker, had eight tackles and a half-sack while replacing an injured Randall Godfrey.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Dante Hall only punched the Chargers once in a return, going for 53 yards on a kickoff. The Chargers' return game had one bright note, when Darren Sproles went 31 yards on a return. Kassim Osgood had a fine day with four of the Chargers' seven special-teams tackles and he covered up the Chiefs last-gasp, on-side kick.

COACHING: A -- Marty Schottenheimer found a new catch phrase and the team bought into it. He said a new season started Sunday, and the Chargers are 1-0. He boiled the rest of the year down to a nine-game season -- that also helped put the heartbreaker of Philadelphia behind them. But the offense was effective; although Tomlinson is a little bewildered he didn't run the ball as much as he wanted.

Chiefs Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Green's numbers (31 of 43 for 347 yards and two TDs) call out for a better grade, but 312 of them came after KC fell behind 21-3 at halftime -- when KC had only 35 passing yards. The Chargers' blitzing linebackers gave KC's offensive line and Green fits even when he wasn't being sacked four times. Tony Gonzalez wasn't even a factor until the third quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Larry Johnson broke a nice 46-yard run -- the longest against San Diego since 2003 -- but the Chiefs had only 49 yards beyond that. Priest Holmes was struggling (14-38) at the time he was knocked woozy and put out of the game in the third quarter, and Johnson failed on three goal-to-go plays inside the 5-yard line when the Chiefs absolutely had to have touchdowns in their comeback bid.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Escapes a failing grade only in that it held Drew Brees to 91 yards in the second half after he threw for 233 and two TDs in the first. Brees had a 112 rating in the first half when he completed 16 of 27 passes. TE Antonio Gates beat everyone the Chiefs threw at him. He caught one TD when bracketed by SS Sammy Knight and LB Kawika Mitchell, he beat former Pro Bowl S Jerome Woods for another, and then he broke a Knight tackle on a third-and-short pass and went 35 yards for the game-winning TD after the Chiefs had closed to 21-13 in the fourth quarter. And the Chiefs were completely fooled on LaDainian Tomlinson's 17-yard TD pass in the second. Pressure on Brees was minimal and resulted in no sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- A satisfactory effort in holding LaDainian Tomlinson to 69 yards and a 4.1-yard average. But then again, this is an old refrain for the Chiefs. Why would teams want to run (22-83 for the Chargers) when they can pass so easily against the Chiefs secondary?

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Dante Hall nearly broke a punt return (52 yards) and had a 53-yard kickoff return that was one man from going yard. But those were the highlights. Dustin Colquitt averaged only 39.7 gross and 34.8 net yards punting. Worse yet, after closing to 21-13 with 12 minutes remaining, Lawrence Tynes' short kickoff and Darren Sproles 31-yard return gave San Diego prime field position at the 45 that soon became a Gates touchdown and a 28-13 lead.

COACHING: D -- Given extra time to prepare following their rush to play the previous Friday night in hurricane-worried Miami, the Chiefs should have been prepared for a faster start than they showed while amassing only 112 first-half yards and falling behind 21-3. KC's defense reacted as if it had never seen Tomlinson throw a halfback pass, which he did for a 17-yard second-period score. Admittedly, the death of Trent Green's father and its affect on the quarterback was beyond anyone's control, but that really didn't seem to be a factor in the slow start as much as KC's inability to deal with San Diego's blitzing linebackers. Al Saunders made a nice adjustment in the second half when he gave up the deep drops and went to a quick passing game, but by then it was too late.


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