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The Morning After: San Diego

Posted Dec 13, 2010

With big games on the horizon, Chiefs can't afford to dwell on defeat in San Diego

The four-time defending AFC West Champions made it clear that they weren’t ready to give up their reign. Not on Sunday, at least.

Facing division elimination, San Diego didn’t just defeat Kansas City. The Chargers kept their season alive with an absolute whitewashing of the Chiefs.

“We have to see it for what it is,” Coach Todd Haley said. “We have to understand that San Diego played better than us; clearly better than us. I don’t think it was close.”

The Chiefs haven’t turned in a game quite like this since a miserable 34-0 loss at Carolina in 2008. Disheartening division losses earlier this season, in Denver and Oakland, at least provided the team with something to hang their hat on as they returned to Kansas City. There’s no such silver lining this time around.

In San Diego, the Chiefs weren’t competitive in any phase of the game.

“They obviously came in more ready than us,” DE Shaun Smith said.

Sunday’s 31-0 final tells you everything you need to know about how the afternoon played out. San Diego outgained Kansas City 426-67, allowed just five first downs, converted nearly 75% of their third down attempts and doubled the Chiefs time of possession (40:10 to 19:50). The Chiefs didn’t’ covert a single third down (0/11) and crossed the Chargers 50-yard line only once.

Already short a starting quarterback, the Chiefs needed a spark to come from somewhere. Outside of two defensive takeaways, the sparkplug never arrived. In addition, the series of plays that followed each turnover combined to produce a total of -3 yards on six snaps.

“We needed the whole team to step up and play our best game,” Haley said. “We didn’t come close to doing it. We’ve got to stick together, number one, and get back to work.”

Getting back to work is a must for a young Kansas City roster as the Chiefs enter a must-win portion of their schedule. Keeping one loss from becoming two will be a challenge for both the players and coaches as the team returns to work this week.

“You have to let it go,” RB Thomas Jones said following Sunday’s loss. “You want to let it go tonight, but you can’t. You have to watch the film and make the corrections and then go forward. Whether you have a good game or a bad game, you have to have a short memory. We have a big game next week on the road in St. Louis that we have to win.”

Though things certainly don’t feel this way coming out of San Diego, the Chiefs still sit in good position with all three of their remaining opponents carrying sub .500 records. Two of those games will take place at Arrowhead.

But before the team can return home, the Chiefs must find a way to win on the road next weekend in St. Louis. It’s a Governor’s Cup matchup that carries postseason implications for each division leader. How the Chiefs respond in the upcoming week could end up being the turning point of the season.

“There’s a sense of urgency to win starting next week,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “Panic isn’t a good word, but it’s more of a sense of urgency. If we start winning, this game won’t mean as much.”

The Chiefs path to a division championship is simple: win-out and you’re in. A loss along the way clouds the standings and brings hypotheticals into play. St. Louis finds itself in a similar situation tied for the NFC West lead with a 6-7 record.

Kansas City has lost each of its two-game road trips this season (Indianapolis/Houston and Oakland/Denver). Finding an answer to keep a road sweep from happening three times this year is essential.

“We’ll look at this game and see some of the things that we did wrong and we’ll bounce back,” Jones said. “I think we have a lot of guys in here who are resilient and hate to lose, some really competitive guys on this team. For us it’s just getting back to the grind. I know most the guys feel like they can’t wait to get back to practice.”

Meaningful December games are set to continue.

News and Notes

  • Matt Cassel did not travel with the team to San Diego after undergoing emergency appendectomy surgery earlier in the week. Brodie Croyle started at quarterback for the first time since the 2009 season opener and finished 7-of-17 passing for 40 yards.
  • Tyler Palko made his NFL debut, replacing Croyle at quarterback for the Chiefs final offensive drive of the gaem. Palko finished 2-of-3 passing with 8 yards.
  • Sunday was just the second time that the Chargers have ever shut out the Chiefs; the only other instance was in a 1992 AFC Wild Card Game in San Diego.
  • Both Jon McGraw and Javier Arenas left the game with injuries. McGraw would later return to play, while Arenas would not. However, it was announced in the press box that Areans was expected to return.
  • Tamba Hali recorded his team-leading 11th sack of the season, moving him into a tie with Jared Allen (2005) for the third-highest single-season sack total since 2000. Jared Allen owns the most single-season sacks (15.5 in 2007) in Chiefs history during that span, followed by Eric Hicks (14.0 in 2000).
  • Hali has now sacked Phillip Rivers 5.5 times over the course his career. The only quarterback Hali has sacked more often is Kyle Orton (6.0 times).
  • Wallace Gilberry recovered Hali’s sack-and-strip of Rivers, giving him two fumble recoveries this season. That total ties Hali for the team lead.
  • Eric Berry recorded his 3rd INT of the season. That total also leads the team.
  • The Chiefs five first downs were the fewest gained in team history.
  • Kansas City didn’t possess the football in San Diego territory until the 4:07 mark of the third quarter.
  • Todd Haley’s 100% challenge success rate was broken in the third quarter when Haley challenged an in –bounds ruling on Antoine Cason’s 42-yard punt return. Haley is now 4/5 on challenges this season.
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