The sea of red looked slightly more like a pond, maybe a river, as Chiefs fans were forced to battle the elements Saturday afternoon. The 40 degree temperature combined with a continuous downpour. What's a must-win game without obstacles?
"It was really bad," quarterback Trent Green said of the field conditions. "Especially in the second half, every snap there was pretty much mud caked all over the ball."
Christmas wishes filled both teams' heads as the noon Christmas Eve match-up kicked off. Not normally this close between the Chargers and Chiefs with just two weeks remaining, today's game was Darwin's version of postseason admittance.
Survival of the fittest.
Sadly enough the whole darn thing is all for not if the planet's fail to align and Pittsburg wins out. But if Detroit can topple Pittsburg and Denver can knock off San Diego next week, the number six spot belongs to the Chiefs.
"We have something to play for and you can't stop fighting," cornerback Patrick Surtain said. He plays a major role on the defense embarrassed by the Giants last week. "It's just a little piece of bread but we're still hanging on."
The rain slightly daunted receiver Dante Hall's receiving ability early in the game, but his specialty was razor sharp. Punter Mike Scifres' surprisingly potent tackle was all that kept Hall from the end zone in Kansas City's second possession of the game. That 44-yard return set up running back Larry Johnson's four-yard touchdown run.
Barely five minutes into the first quarter, Johnson tied San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson at 17 rushing touchdowns on the year.
The LJ vs. LT showdown now perfectly prefaced…
LJ: 1, LT: 0
Penalty flags flew faster than insults in the first half, while the refs answered defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's pre-thought flip-off, now two weeks old. Pass interference and illegal contact against the boys in red pushed San Diego downfield to an eventual tied ballgame.
Drew Brees connected with tight end Antonio Gates for an 18-yard touchdown reception, giving both squads seven to start the second quarter. A slightly psyched-out Kawika Mitchell allowed Gates free range in back of the end zone, for the first (and last) time on the afternoon.
"We redeemed a little bit after last week," Head Coach Dick Vermeil said. "We didn't work any harder or any different. When you go 20 games to one without giving up a 100-yard rusher, I hope our defense reflects more on the 20 games than the one."
The Chiefs took all of seven seconds to tack on seven points in the second quarter. Looking way too lonely for a Christmas Eve, receiver Sammie Parker stood in the end zone and awaited a 42-yard shot from Trent Green.
Holidays-shmolidays, the fans meant for the abnormally high amount of empty Arrowhead seats missed a great show.
And possibly one of two games remaining this season.
Straying from his running ways, Johnson took off with a 28-yard touchdown pass inside the first half two-minute warning. His first touchdown reception of the year, LJ made the Charger defense look strikingly similar to the Chiefs against Tiki. At this point, Brees has more yards on the ground than Tomlinson.
LJ: 2, LT: 0
No points will be subtracted due to a Lawrence Tynes missed extra point, or missed 52-yarder to end the first half.
"You can't be surprised by what he's been doing," tight end Tony Gonzalez said of Johnson. "When he gets the ball in his hands it's hard to bring him down."
Once again, the rain was good to free safety Greg Wesley. Last month, Wesley picked Tom Brady three times in a soggy 26-16 victory against the Patriots. The constant rainfall worked like glue again as Wesley pulled down a tipped pass from Brees, his seventh of the season.
The minutes ticked away and the final quarter approached. The thought creeps in that the over-played LJ and LT match-up is becoming boring. Johnson easily nabbed his eighth consecutive 100-yard game by halftime. Tomlinson had 64 total yards heading into the fourth, compared to Johnson's 140. Not a deal breaker, but 42 of the 64 yards came in the basically Charger-less third quarter.
LJ: 3, LT: 0
"He will become one of the best backs just like Priest Holmes," Vermeil said of his starting back. "He runs angry."
Joining the offensive show was Gonzalez making a sizeable impact. Averaging 11.6 yards per catch made him the only player distracting eyes away from Johnson.
While the Chiefs head home for the holidays, Vermeil gave his players time off until Wednesday, he was grateful his team was still kicking.
"It's tough but at this point, it's a hole we dug ourselves," Gonzalez said. "But anything can happen."
The missed extra point followed soon after by a missed field goal left a bad taste in the mouth of a Chiefs fan, wondering if those missed opportunities would come back with a vengeance.
Puddles forming in parts of the field wasn't enough to deter San Diego from its passing game. With six minutes to play, the Chargers moved into Kansas City territory primarily by passing the ball. Although not extremely successful, my previous Tomlinson point scale must have provided enough reason to persevere.
"That was our whole goal today—just stay alive," Green said.
Week 16 and Kansas City's still kicking. Christmas gift, or not, the Chiefs can only control what they can control.
It's up to Santa to bring the rest.
Chiefs Knock Chargers Out 20-7
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