Chiefs vs. Chargers: Winners and Losers in Kansas City's 34-20 Loss

Derek Estes@NotacowCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

Chiefs vs. Chargers: Winners and Losers in Kansas City's 34-20 Loss

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    The Kansas City Chiefs hosted the San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon and watched their season go down the tubes before it really even began.

    Harsh?  Perhaps. But there's no denying that Kansas City stood a chance to turn the corner and instead reinforced the opinion that the Chiefs aren't even an average team, let alone a playoff contender.

    Kansas City handed Sunday's game to the Chargers on a silver platter, turning the ball over twice in their first five offensive plays. San Diego made good use of these turnovers, taking a 17-point lead less than 11 minutes into the game.

    The Chiefs never really threatened to come back through the entire game. Kansas City lost the ball six times, gave up two sacks and extended their streak of opening drives without a touchdown to a ridiculous 21 games. And despite their overtime win against New Orleans, the Chiefs have yet to lead their opponent with the game clock still running.

    That's why this week's balance of winners and losers for Sunday's game tilts in favor of the "losers". Kansas City just showed way too many weak points in their game and not nearly enough strengths.

    The Chiefs must find a way to change that balance, and not just to change their division standings.

Safety Eric Berry: Loser

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    Eric Berry may be the best safety prospect to come out of college in over a decade, but he certainly didn’t look that way against the Chargers.

    The 2010 Pro Bowler spent the first half of the game matched up against Antonio Gates, and it was really no contest. Phillip Rivers completed three out of five attempts to Gates; Berry drew pass interference calls on the other two for holding on to Gates’ jersey.

    Berry finished the game with six tackles and faced stout competition against a likely Hall of Famer. But those factors don’t change the fact that Berry surrendered 87 total yards to his primary assignment.

Offensive Tackle Eric Winston: Loser

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    Eric Winston became the biggest surprise free agent when the Houston Texans released him to save room on their salary cap.

    With a massive hole at right tackle, the Chiefs went full-court press to sign Winston, figuring Houston’s loss was their immense gain.

    Instead, it’s the 4-0 Texans who are laughing all the way to the bank.

    Rather than finding the missing piece to their offensive line, Kansas City so far simply replaced one ineffective blocker for a more expensive one.

    Since joining the Chiefs, pass-rushers regularly beat Winston and disrupt the passing game. San Diego consistently pressured Matt Cassel from the right side, reminding Chiefs fans of last year’s blocking difficulties with Barry Richardson.

    Winston shows flashes of the player who established himself as one of the top right tackles in the NFL. His dominance over Shaun Phillips on 3rd-and-11 gave Cassel enough time to hit Jamaal Charles for six points in the third quarter.

    But until those moments become the rule rather than the exception, Kansas City’s free-agency steal is just another “too good to be true” cautionary tale.

Kansas City Chiefs' Defensive Line: Winner

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    Over the last few years, the Chiefs spent heavily on their defensive line, drafting three players in the top half of the first round over the last five years.

    It’s taken a bit, but those picks are finally starting to pay huge dividends.

    Lost in the mix of an otherwise miserable season, Kansas City’s defensive line is quietly dominating their opponents.  74 of San Diego’s 104 yards rushing came in the fourth quarter with the game reasonably out of reach. The Chargers averaged less than two yards per carry in the first three quarters.

    Part of Kansas City’s success on the line comes from some of their other players as well. Former undrafted free agent Ropati Pitoitua hammered Philip Rivers for two sacks in Sundays game. On one of those, last year’s sixth-round pick Jerrell Powe drew a triple team from San Diego’s offensive line.

    The Chiefs have plenty of problems at this point in the season; their defensive line isn’t one of them.

Quarterback Matt Cassel: Loser

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    o   t after today I can’t defend him anymore.