Chiefs vs. Chargers: Game Balls

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their second straight game Sunday when they dropped a heartbreaker to the San Diego Chargers 41-38 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Making matter worse, Andy Reid’s crew might be without leading pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston for the season’s stretch run. Hali left the game after injuring his ankle on the first play of the second half. Shortly after that, Houston hurt his elbow and wouldn’t return.

With their best pass rushers out of the game, the Chiefs defense could do little to slow down Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. Even with a raucous crowd behind them, the Kansas City defense gave up big play after big play, capped by a game-winning 26-yard strike from Rivers to Seyi Ajirotutu with just 24 seconds left in the game.

The Chiefs offense came into Sunday’s matchup averaging just over 23 points per game, but managed to keep up in the unexpected shootout. Alex Smith guided a beautiful six play drive that ended with what looked like a game winner of his own to Dwayne Bowe. But as it turned out, the 1:22 left on the clock was more than enough for Rivers.

The offense put up all those points on the board even though they barely used their best weapon, Jamaal Charles. The running back had 157 yards from scrimmage on just 18 touches. Far too often when the Chiefs needed to make a play, they stayed away from the explosive Charles.

Now as the Chiefs gather this week to try and figure out a way to beat a Denver Broncos team that comes to Arrowhead Stadium fresh off a brutal loss of their own, questions will swirl about all that’s going wrong in Kansas City right now.

Before we move onto the huge showdown with Manning & Co., here is a look at the best on offense, defense and special teams for the Chiefs Sunday.

Offense: Jamaal Charles

I have been — and will continue to be — the first one to stand up and talk about how the Chiefs need to manage Charles carries. The running back has been a one man show and with too much abuse won’t survive down the stretch. But what happened against the Chargers is puzzling.

Charles was constantly getting to the second level for the first time in weeks and was averaging 8.2 yards a carry. Yet, he ended the day with a season-low 14 carries and tied for his lowest output of 18 touches.

For the Chiefs offense to get to the level, they’ll need to find a happy medium when it comes to using Charles.

Defense: Eric Berry

For the third straight game, the Chiefs defense had trouble getting to the quarterback. Well, the entire defense except for Berry. The Kansas City safety had the lone sack of Rivers and knocked him around a few more times.

Berry also turned Chargers tight end Antonio Gates into a non-factor, limiting him to just three catches for 21 yards.

Finishing the day with eight tackles (three for a loss), a sack and a pass defensed.

Special Teams: Quintin Demps

The safety had a tough night on defense, dropping an interception on the goal line and taking a poor angle on the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. But while he struggle on defense, he was once again a step away from taking a kickoff to the house.

Demps only averaged 25 yards on eight returns, but had a fantastic 35 yarder called back by a penalty. He also turned in a 38 and 34 yard returns that he was close to going all the way, including one that was stopped by Chargers kicker Nick Novak.

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