That goes to show how invaluable quality depth really is. Phillips, for example, was only in the starting lineup because of off-the-field injuries suffered by projected starter Steve Foley. Carlos Polk and Marques Harris took over for Phillips, really putting A.J. Smith's three-deep roster to the test.
By the end of the game, the contest resembled a preseason affair more than a crucial divisional showdown. The Chargers were relying on the likes of Derreck Robinson and Marques Harris – two undrafted free agents from a year ago – to ignite their pass rush. It showed, as the team finished the day with just two sacks.
The Chargers were also hindered by an injury that occurred almost a year ago. Left tackle Roman Oben, who is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list but is eligible to be activated at any time – could have helped eliminate some of his team's breakdowns in protection. Rookie Marcus McNeill was absolutely owned by Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen.
"We were just getting off the ball and we had the will to get it done," Allen said. "We knew before the game that we had to get to him [Phillip Rivers] and that we had to put pressure on him."
Still, injuries are an obstacle that every successful team must overcome. The Chargers failed to do in Kansas City and it cost them the win as well as their share of first place.
It would be unfair to place the blame on the substitutes, however, as they played admirably for the most part. It was All-Pro LaDainian Tomlinson and franchise quarterback Rivers that combined for three turnovers, and it was high draft picks Quentin Jammer, Drayton Florence and Terrence Kiel that disappointed in coverage.
The reason the Chiefs won is that their stars did a better job of picking up the slack for their less-capable teammates. Larry Johnson finished with 161 total yards and two touchdowns, and became the first player to rush for over 100 yards against the Chargers this season. Tony Gonzalez outshined Antonio Gates in the showcase of the league's best tight ends, catching six passes for 138 yards.
"I told both he [Gonzales] and Larry that we were going to get them the ball this week," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said afterwards.
The Chargers' cast of stars will have to step up in a similar fashion if the team is to rediscover its winning ways next week against the 4-2 Rams. As the season progresses, football can become a game of attrition. On Sunday, it was a game the Chargers lost.
"It's disappointing, but it is what it is," Marty Schottenheimer said. "We have some work to do. We've talked about that; everybody is aware of it and we are going to keep working to get better."