Chiefs' goal-line stand preserves 10-3 victory over Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson (12) gets past a tackle-attempt by San Diego Chargers cornerback Steve Williams (23) while running for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP
San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy shouts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
San Diego Chargers kicker Josh Lambo, right, with holder Mike Scifres, center, and tight end John Phillips (83) follow the trajectory of Lambo's missed field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City,
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, right, argues a call with line judge Sarah Thomas during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs safety Ron Parker (38) reacts after sacking San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Twice before this season the Kansas City Chiefs had been forced to defend their end zone in the closing minutes, and both times the defense had buckled in defeat. They weren't about to let it happen again.
After allowing Philip Rivers to march the San Diego Chargers downfield in the fourth quarter Sunday, the Chiefs forced him to throw incompletions in the end zone on the final two plays of the game, preserving a 10-3 victory and their seventh consecutive win.
"We did what we had to do to win the game," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said bluntly.
That was unlike their games against Denver and Chicago, when the Broncos' Peyton Manning and the Bears' Jay Cutler managed to produce late touchdowns in victories that helped doom Kansas City to a 1-5 start.
But things have changed in the weeks since then, as the Chiefs (8-5) began to string together wins to get back into playoff contention. Suddenly, a defense that was supposed to be among the best in the NFL is living up to expectations, racking up sacks and forcing critical turnovers.
San Diego (3-10) managed a season-low 44 yards rushing. It was held to 280 yards total, not much better than the 201-yard output in a 33-3 loss to Kansas City three weeks ago. And the six total points scored by the Chargers in two games match the fewest in the history of the series.
"It's not a beauty pageant," Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. "They made some plays and that's going to happen sometimes, but I felt like, for the most part, everybody kept their cool."
Alex Smith hit Albert Wilson with a 44-yard scoring strike in the second quarter, and the teams traded field goals, before the Chargers had one last chance to send the game to overtime.
They got the ball at their own 11 with 5 minutes left and quickly moved into Chiefs territory, converting fourth down three times. But after Rivers was called for delay of game at the Chiefs 1 with 5 seconds left, he threw high and out of the end zone.
There was still 2 seconds left, and another incomplete pass that would have ended the game was blown dead for a false start. So with the ball pushed back to the 11-yard line, Rivers scrambled to his right and again threw to the end zone, where his pass to Danny Woodhead skipped incomplete.
"That has been the story of our season, losing close games," said Rivers, who played through the flu. "That was like a couple of our other losses we have lost this year. It was tough. We had our chance to win the game. We just couldn't find a way to end it."
Some things to know from the Chiefs' win:
FORD TOUGH: Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford had three sacks in place of All-Pro pass rusher Justin Houston, but his biggest play may have come in pass defense. He had the coverage on Woodhead on the game's final play. "Just be where you're supposed to be, do your job and good things happen," he said.
GOING STREAKING: The Chiefs' seven-game win streak matches the third-longest in franchise history, and makes them the first time since Cincinnati in 1970 to follow a losing streak of at least five games with a win streak of seven. "We've got a long way to go," Reid said.
GORDON GROUNDED: First-round draft pick Melvin Gordon struggled once again, rushing for just 34 yards on 15 carries. His longest run was 10 yards. "We did what we could," he said. "We got put into some situations, probably, where we had to pass the ball."
FLOYD'S FOLLY: Malcolm Floyd beat Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters on a deep route, only to drop what could have been a long touchdown pass. "Just took it for granted," he said. "I was just trying to bring it into my body and it bounced off my pads. No excuses."
STREAK SNAPPED: Smith had his franchise-record streak of 312 passes without an interception end when Jason Verrett picked him off on a route down the San Diego sideline in the first half. He had been 6 of 7 at that point, pushing his streak past Bernie Kosar (308) for second in NFL history. Tom Brady still has the mark with 358 in 2010-11. "If you're going to throw one it's not bad," Smith said. Now I don't have to answer those questions anymore."