Dec 28, 2014 4:21 PM
Chiefs beat Chargers 19-7 as both miss playoffs
The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) In a world of smartphones, text messages and Twitter, there's a good chance that just about everybody inside Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday knew about the Chiefs' precarious postseason position.
Well, except for the Chiefs.
Even as they were knocking the San Diego Chargers from contention with a 19-7 victory, they refused to ask about what was transpiring elsewhere.
It was only later that they learned just how close they were to hitting on a three-team parlay Baltimore getting beat by Cleveland and Houston losing to Jacksonville that would have gotten them into the playoffs.
"Nobody knew. Nobody wanted to know," said the Chiefs' Chase Daniel, who started in place of injured quarterback Alex Smith. "We were focused on the game at hand, the task at hand."
By the time the Chiefs got to their locker room, though, they knew: The Ravens and Texans both rallied in the second half for victories, giving Baltimore for the final AFC wild-card spot.
"We end up missing the playoffs," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "so while it's fresh in the players' minds, it's important that they feel how important every game is in this league. There's so much parity in the league and these games are so close."
The playoff disappointment overshadowed plenty of positives Sunday.
Justin Houston had four sacks for the Chiefs (9-7) to break Derrick Thomas' franchise record with 22 in the season. Cairo Santos kicked four field goals, and Daniel played serviceably in just his second NFL start, throwing for 157 yards without an interception.
The Chiefs' only touchdown came when wide receiver Dwayne Bowe fumbled inches shy of the goal line early in the second quarter. Tight end Travis Kelce recovered in the end zone, not only giving Kansas City a 10-0 lead, but keeping a dubious streak intact: No Chiefs wide receiver caught a TD pass all season, the first time in at least 50 years that has happened.
"I honestly didn't pay attention to that. I wanted to win," Houston said of his record. "I felt like everything was going to work out in our favor if we won, we'd be in the playoffs."
The Chargers (9-7) never really gave themselves a chance at the playoffs.
Nick Novak missed a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth, a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal was overturned by a video review when the ball appeared to skip off the turf San Diego went for it on fourth down and Philip Rivers threw incomplete. Then with about 4 minutes left, Donald Brown was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 20.
Rivers was intercepted for a second time in the closing seconds of the game.
"Very disappointed the way we played," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "Got off to a poor start, put ourselves in a number of holes. Too many penalties, not converting on third down.
"That was nowhere close to where we needed it to be."
Rivers finished with 291 yards passing to go over 4,000 in a season for the sixth time, though he also threw two interceptions. Branden Oliver ran for 71 yards and a touchdown.
"They were better than us," offensive lineman Chad Rinehart said, "and obviously it showed."
In many ways, injuries crippled San Diego's postseason hopes.
After starting the game without running back Ryan Mathews, wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Chris Watt, the banged-up Chargers watched right tackle D.J. Fluker walked slowly to the locker room late in the first half. He joined safety Marcus Gilchrist (elbow), cornerback Shareece Wright (head injury) and wide receiver Eddie Royal, who got hurt late in the game.
Injuries also took their toll on the Chiefs, who were 7-3 at one point this season.
Still, after weathering so much adversity, they still had a shot at the playoffs when the fourth quarter rolled around. They had already built a 19-7 lead, Cleveland was clinging to a 10-3 lead over Baltimore and three-win Jacksonville was leading Houston 17-14.
If all three scores had held, the Chiefs would have claimed the final wild-card spot.
Instead, the Texans took the lead a few minutes later. So did the Ravens. And when both held on, Kansas City joined San Diego in heading into the offseason.
"One thing you learn from it is when you've got it in your hands to control, you lock it down, so you don't let that part get away, ever," Reid said, "and from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint, we didn't get that done."
Notes: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles ran for 54 yards, going over 1,000 for the season. ... The Chiefs had seven sacks. ... Rivers fell to 34-9 in regular-season games played in December and January. ... Trevor Robinson became the fifth player to start at center for San Diego this season. ... The Chargers allowed 111 yards rushing, one week after giving up 355 vs San Francisco.
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