The Kansas City Chiefs played their most complete game of the year Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, crushing the San Diego Chargers 33-3 behind an efficient offense, a swarming defense, and opportunistic special teams. Other than two field goals by kicker Cairo Santos, all the other scoring came from Chiefs players that no one would have guessed before the game began.
Mammoth defensive tackle Dontari Poe, playing on offense as a lead blocker out of the backfield at the goal line, took the handoff from Alex Smith and leapt over a pile of San Diego defenders to score a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Poe’s run made him the heaviest player in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown and set his teammates on the sidelines crazy with laughter. At 346 lbs, Poe is 11 pounds heavier than the previous record holder, William “Refrigerator” Perry was when he scored a touchdown against Green Bay on Nov. 3, 1985.
Seeing how much fun his defensive teammate was having scoring touchdowns, linebacker Justin Houston got into the act with 4:35 left in the third quarter. Houston stepped in front of a Philip Rivers pass intended for Danny Woodhead at the Chargers 17-yard line and returned the interception for a touchdown that put the Chiefs up 19-3.
Then the Chiefs got back to normal by letting an offensive starter score. Little-used running back Spencer Ware came into the game for an injured Charcandrick West and blitzed the Chargers run defense for 96 yards rushing on 11 carries and two fourth quarter touchdown runs. Ware began the season on the Chiefs practice squad but was activated when Jamaal Charles suffered his season-ending knee injury against the Chicago Bears.
Just one week after possibly sending arch-rival Peyton Manning into early retirement, the Chiefs defense took apart their other nemesis, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, and held him to his worst performance of the year. Rivers was just 19-for-30 for 178 yards and no touchdowns. Things got so bad for Rivers, he was seen jawing with his favorite receiver, tight end Antonio Gates, in a heated exchange in the third quarter.
On the other side of the field, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won another game at what might be his favorite stadium in the world. Smith won consecutive high school championships at Qualcomm as the quarterback of nearby Helix High and on Sunday, Smith looked like a different quarterback, often throwing downfield and to receivers that seemingly were covered. But ultimately, it was vintage Smith for the Chiefs as he completed 20-of-25 passes for 253 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He also picked up three key first downs with his legs, running for 33 yards on seven carries.
Smith broke Steve DeBerg’s team record of 233 consecutive passes without an interception. Smith threw his 234th straight pass without a pick on a 47-yard completion to running back Charcandrick West. By the time the game ended, Smith would extend his record to 253.
Special teams got into the act, keeping San Diego pinned deep in their end of the field on Santos’ kickoffs and Dustin Colquitt’s razor-sharp punts. And, at a time when the game was still in question, the special teams unit snuffed out the last flicker of hope for San Diego when they recovered a muffed catch and fumble by Chargers’ punt returner, Javontee Herndon, at the San Diego 44-yard line. Even though the Chiefs were unable to capitalize on the mistake, it seemed to punch the last bit of breath out of a Chargers team that now has lost six consecutive games and stand at 2-8 on the season.
Meanwhile the Chiefs are back to a .500 record, which seemed unthinkable in the hours after their Week 6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings that left them wounded with a 1-5 record.
The San Diego victory sets up a big game against the Buffalo Bills, 5-4, next Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills, who play the undefeated New England Patriots on Monday, hold the second wild card spot and are in the thick of the playoff race, just like the Chiefs. The game could have tiebreaker implications, something that seemed so improbable when the Chiefs sat at 1-5.