They played an old fashioned AFL/AFC West shootout in Kansas City on Sunday and Philip Rivers got the last laugh.
Rivers hit Seyi Ajirotutu for a 26-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left to play to give the Chargers the lead, the eighth lead change of the game, and the San Diego defense sacked Alex Smith with five seconds to play to hold for a 41-38 victory. The touchdown capped a tremendous day for Rivers, who completed 27-of-39 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Chargers knee deep in the race for the second Wild Card in the AFC.
Staying there may have much to do with how a few injured players fare after leaving Sunday’s game. Running back Ryan Mathews didn’t return after hurting his hamstring, wide receiver Eddie Royal’s absence opened the door for Ajirotutu and right tackle D.J. Fluker had to be helped off the field after Nick Novak’s extra point made it 41-38 in the fourth.
Kansas City sacked Rivers on the play before the touchdown, but it was another quiet day for their pass rush before that point. Linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left with injuries in the first half and didn’t return as the Chiefs ran their streak without a sack to 11 quarters before Eric Berry dropped Rivers in the fourth. Berry had a costly pass interference penalty earlier on the winning Charger drive to add to a rough day for a Chiefs secondary left hanging by the lack of pressure on the quarterback.
The silver lining for the Chiefs’ second-straight loss is that their offense showed it could hang in a shootout. Alex Smith drove the Chiefs 55 yards in six plays to grab the lead before Ajirotutu’s touchdown and threw three touchdown passes overall on the day. Jamaal Charles ran 14 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns and Donnie Avery got behind the San Diego defense twice for big gains.
The dark cloud is that a Broncos win on Sunday night will mean the Chiefs face a must win against the Broncos next week to have any realistic chance at winning the AFC West. If they don’t have Hali and Houston, they might not have a realistic chance at that victory.