Chargers toss Chiefs out

A must-win game they wanted to dedicate to their beloved late owner wasn't enough to keep alive the Chiefs' all-but-eliminated playoff hopes.

Hoping for a season-saving road win over West Division champion San Diego to honor the memory of franchise founder Lamar Hunt after his death four days earlier, the Chiefs instead gave up too many momentum-turning big plays and fell for a third straight game, 20-9 to the Chargers.

In falling to 7-7 overall with a 3-7conference record, the Chiefs have virtually no chance of getting any tiebreaker edge even if a 9-7 team should somehow slip into a wild-card berth.

For that matter, winning their final two games (at Oakland on Saturday, and at home against wild-card contender Jacksonville) to finish with a winning record will be challenge enough.

On an emotional day when they wanted to play well to honor Hunt, the AFL founder and Hall of Fame owner who died last Wednesday night after an eight-year battle with prostate cancer, the Chiefs had a chance to turn this game around with three minutes left in the first half.

Down only 7-3, Kansas City rookie safety Bernard Pollard blocked a San Diego punt from the Chargers 11. But when the Chiefs Derrick Ross touched the ball while failing to field it beyond the line of scrimmage, San Diego recovered and retained possession at its 15.

One play later, LaDainian Tomlinson raced through the Chiefs for an 85-yard touchdown, the biggest chunk of his 199 rushing yards and the second of his two touchdowns to give San Diego a 14-3 lead.

"Ross tried to get it and run with it," coach Herm Edwards said. "If he catches it, we get the ball (deep in the Chargers end). Maybe he even scores. It could have turned the momentum in our favor.

"Instead, on the next play (Tomlinson) breaks the big run. The safety who was supposed to be there on the eight-man front fell down."

The Chiefs closed to within eight points on two second-half occasions, the final coming after a Greg Wesley interception and return to the Chargers 39. Six plays later, Tony Gonzalez just missed a tipped ball on a third-down pass to the end zone and the Chiefs settled for a field goal that cut the San Diego lead to 17-9 with 7:01 to play.

But on San Diego's ensuing possession, quarterback Phillip Rivers, who had thrown for only 51 yards prior to the drive, hit a 46-yard deep post to Vincent Jackson to the KC 8. The Chiefs defense held San Diego to a second field goal, but now it was a two-score game again with 4:40 remaining.

"I thought our defense hung in there for the most part and gave us a chance, but the big plays hurt us," Edwards said. "But even with all the adversity, after Trent (Green) throws a (second-possession) interception, our defense holds them, or it would have been a blowout early.

"Instead, we hung in there and played through a lot of adversity. At the end, after we kick that field goal (with 7:01 left), it's a one-score game after all that had gone bad for us. If we hold them there, make them punt, we've got a chance with two timeouts left. That's all you can ask of your team on the road against a good football team.

"But then, they hit the big pass, and it's a two-score game again."


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