Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation, giving the San Diego Chargers new life in the game and in their quest to make the playoffs. Chargers kicker Nick Novak made KC pay when his 36-yard field goal 10 minutes into overtime provided the winning points in San Diego’s 27-24 win.
With the win, the Chargers (9-7) claimed the #6 seed in the AFC playoffs and will travel to Cincinnati next week to take on the AFC North champion Bengals. The Chiefs (11-5) knew they were locked into the #5 seed before Sunday’s game even started, and will head to Indianapolis for a rematch of last week’s game against the Colts. Three of the four AFC West teams made the playoffs with Denver capturing the #1 seed with a 13-3 record.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid rested nearly every one of his starters for the game, starting 20 of 22 backups on offense and defense, and put nearly all his Pro Bowl players on the inactive list. Jamaal Charles, Branden Albert, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali all wore street clothes on the sidelines and watched the game, along with starting QB Alex Smith.
While the loss is disappointing and left the Chiefs with a 2-5 record in their last seven games, the important thing is that most of the important players got a week of rest and the back-ups gained experience and confidence playing toe-to-toe on the road against a San Diego team that had to win to make the playoffs.
Chase Daniel got the nod over Smith at QB and in the first start of his career, gave Chiefs fans (and fans of the Big 12) flashbacks to his time at the University of Missouri, using his right arm and both legs to lead the Chiefs to a 21-14 halftime lead and causing the home town Charger crowd to lay down some booing as the teams headed into the locker room at halftime. (Jayhawk and Wildcat fans could relate)
Daniel threw for 200 yards and a touchdown, but frustrated the Chargers with his legs, gaining 59 critical yards when flushed out of the pocket. Most importantly, with the game on the line in regulation, Daniel looked marvelous marching the Chiefs downfield and put them in a position to win. He finished the game with a 99.3 quarterback rating and gives the fan base hope that the position will be in good hands if Smith is injured and has to sit for a while.
Knile Davis started for Charles and in the first half, looked like a bigger, stronger version of the Pro Bowl running back. His two first half touchdown runs helped give the Chiefs their lead, but most importantly, he didn’t fumble the ball – or even come close to fumbling – despite 29 offensive touches and one kickoff return. The Chargers were able to change their defense in the second half to gang-tackle Davis several times in the backfield, but he wrapped both arms around the ball and held on.
The defense, ironically, played much better Sunday despite most of the starters either inactive or playing second string. However, once the fourth quarter came around, the Chargers offense picked up steam just as it appeared the back-ups were losing theirs.
However, even in overtime, they held the Chargers to a field goal and gave the offense a chance to tie or win the game. The Chiefs are hoping that the week of rest will give their starters a boost next week on the carpet inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Colts.
For Chiefs fans that are focusing on four disappointing losses to Denver and San Diego in the last seven games, just remember that it took two improbable endings from Philip Rivers to beat KC and Broncos QB Peyton Manning just polished off the greatest season statistically that any QB has ever had.
With a week of rest to get their legs back, I’ll gladly bet on KC to beat Indy next weekend.
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