Chiefs vs. Chargers: Game Balls

The Kansas City Chiefs finished the regular season Sunday afternoon in San Diego against the Chargers in a game they were supposed to lose handily. After all, head coach Andy Reid decided to rest 20 of his 22 starters and the Chargers would be headed to the playoffs with a win.

Instead, the backups gave San Diego everything they could handle, even holding a 10 point lead into the fourth quarter before a few defensive lapses and a missed field goal (not to mention two botched calls by the officials) opened the door for the Chargers to pull out a 27-24 overtime win.

If the Chiefs would have held off the Chargers, it would have been former Kansas City head coach Todd Haley and the Pittsburgh Steelers sliding into the sixth seed in the AFC. Instead, San Diego gets that spot and with the fantastic effort from the Chiefs second unit, the focus around the league will be on those missed calls.

The first was on Succop’s missed field goal in the final seconds of regulation. The Chargers overloaded one side of the formation on the pivotal play, which should have been flagged as an illegal formation under a new rule. Instead, the officials missed the call, the missed field goal stood and San Diego had a second life in overtime.

That second life looked to be over when the Chargers, faced with a fourth and two deep in their own territory, called a fake punt. Though they cleared the two yards needed for the first down, San Diego safety Eric Weddle fumbled and Kansas City seemed to return the ball for a touchdown… except officials ruled forward progress was stopped.

It looked like the pile was clearly still moving, but forward progress is not a reviewable play. So the Chargers kept the ball, were awarded the first down and ended up driving down the field for what would turn into the game-winning field goal.

Now the Chiefs get to prepare to play the Indianapolis Colts on the road next week, while the Chargers are headed to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. But before we focus on the second season, here are the Kansas City players that stood out Sunday on offense, defense and special teams.

Offense: Knile Davis

With Jamaal Charles in street clothes, it was going to be the Knile Davis Show against the Chargers. Fresh of a game that saw his fumbling problems resurface, Davis had a chance to show he could be trusted with the football in the playoffs.

Davis got started quickly, scoring from 17 yards out on the Chiefs first drive to put Kansas City up 7-0. He also punched the ball in from two the two-yard line in the second quarter to give the Chiefs a 21-14 lead.

Everything wasn’t perfect for Davis, most notably an ugly five yard loss in overtime that helped to doom any chance of victory. But that play was blown up from the start and it would’ve taken a Herculean effort to even get back to the line of scrimmage.

Playing behind an offensive line of many players that didn’t see much (if any) time all season, Davis finished the day with 81 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns. More importantly, he held onto the ball and likely gives Reid more confidence to use him if needed next weekend in Indy.

Defense: Frank Zombo

Despite giving up almost 200 yards on the ground, the Chiefs backup defense put in a solid effort. The motor was going full speed all game and that led to Chargers QB Philip Rivers getting knocked around on his way to the playoffs.

Leading the rush of Rivers was Zombo, who has gotten some run over the last month with injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

The four-year veteran finished with four tackled, a sack and was officially credited with three quarterback hits. Like most everyone else playing Sunday, Zombo put in double duty with special teams on top of starting on defense.

Houston and Hali are expected to be back for next week’s playoff game, but if they aren’t at 100%, it will be Zombo stepping in to try to pick up the slack.

Special Teams: Dexter McCluster

He’s stuck somewhere between a starter and backup and special teams coach Dave Toub didn’t want to try out someone new on punt returns., so McCluster got to see action both on offense and special teams.

With the Chiefs and Chargers trading three-and-outs at the beginning of the second half, McCluster took a 39 yard punt and returned it 35 yards, seeing up the Kansas City offense perfectly. Unfortunately, as we saw for the rest of the second half, the offense couldn’t move the ball much and had to settle for a Ryan Succop field goal, but those points were hand delivered by McCluster’s return.

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