Defense Saves the Day for KC

Kansas City, Mo. -- Despite a striking victory against the division champions, the Chiefs' defense was downright sloppy, just like the weather, until the final series.

When Philip Rivers was flustered from all the noise emanating from the raucous Arrowhead crowd in the first half, it caused a handful of delay of game penalties, frantic timeouts, and incomplete passes.

And it was that noise, that fueled the Chiefs' defense in their first kickoff weekend victory since 2005. It places the Chiefs atop the AFC West to begin the 2010 season, and produces a proud fan base heading into Week Two.

The defense had a tough time trying to control the San Diego offense throughout the game, especially early on. The Chargers started out the game looking like they would repeat the beatdowns they gave to the Chiefs in 2009. A 3-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates took all the air out of the stadium and it looked like San Diego was ready to humiliate their opponent.

Chargers Tight End Antonio Gates had his way with the Chiefs secondary.
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The Chargers' first touchdown was made possible because the Chiefs' shaky secondary was blowing coverage left and right. Rookie safety Eric Berry was struggling to find his place in the backfield, which allowed Legedu Naanee to blaze up the middle of the field and have the Chargers knocking on the door of the endzone.

It wasn't just Naanee giving the Chiefs the business in the middle, but running back Ryan Mathews as well. Mathews proved that he's not like LaDanian Tomlinson in trying to run to the outside, but rather a bruiser who aims to burst straight through defensive lines. He rushed for only 75 yards and averaged 3.9 per carry, but was still a nuisance for a Chiefs defense that was trying to find its footing.

There was plenty of confusion within the Chiefs' linebacking corps in both trying to stop the run and trying to cover the middle on short passes. The Chiefs put three safeties in on lots of plays early in the game, but it still didn't help that much. They allowed Philip Rivers to pass for 298 yards and Naanee to tally 110 yards in receiving.

The most help that the Chiefs' defense found came from when Derrick Johnson ripped the ball from Ryan Mathews' arms, which led Brandon Carr to scoop it up and move it 23 yards down the field. In my eyes, that play was clearly the best of the game. It would eventually lead to the Chiefs scoring on a touchdown pass from Matt Cassel to Tony Moeaki, taking a 14-7 lead.

From that point on, the Chiefs held their lead for a 21-14 victory. The forced fumble from Johnson outshines the defensive stand for the Chiefs at the end of the game because it was clearly something that a Chiefs defender did with their own hands.

Safety Kendrick Lewis separates the ball from Chargers Wide Receiver Malcolm Floyd..
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In the first half, Kansas City's defense was stable enough to not give up too many big plays. They worked best when other factors entered the ball game, especially with the slick turf. Late in the third quarter, the turf didn't limit Naanee when he flew for a 59-yard touchdown. The big play Chiefs fans were biting their nails over finally happened when Naanee made reality look like a typical play from a Madden video game.

Both Berry and Brandon Flowers were trying to play zone coverage in the backfield, but let Naanee slip through. Brandon Carr had to come all the way from the other side of the field to chase after him, but to no avail.

There were still seven minutes left in the game when it seemed like the Chiefs' defenders were gasping for air. Another three-and-out from Matt Cassel and the offense put the defense back on the field just two minutes later, and it seemed like the Chargers were going to pull out all the stops in sneaking out of Kansas City.

However, failing to use up their timeouts in critical moments within the two minute warning very well spoiled the Chargers' chances of tying or winning the game. A false start killed the Chargers' momentum, and an incomplete pass from Rivers to Naanee on fourth down sealed the deal. The fans who stuck around Arrowhead paid witness to one of the most memorable games in quite a while, which will kickoff a new era at the refurbished stadium.

It seems that the Chiefs' defense learned its lesson from a blown lead against Philadelphia in the preseason and also blended its best moments from the Green Bay game to shock San Diego. While there wasn't much attention given to them prior to the game, this was the Chiefs' shining moment for all to see on national television.

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