Chiefs vs. Chargers: Takeaways from San Diego's 27-24 OT Win over Kansas City
San Diego's three-year playoff drought came to an end in an overtime thriller against the Chiefs.
The Chargers punched their ticket to the postseason in rare fashion with a victory and losses by Baltimore and Miami. At 9-7, San Diego will fill the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture and make its first playoff appearance under first-year head coach Mike McCoy.
Here are takeaways from yet another entertaining game between the Chiefs and Chargers.
Mathews Finishes Strong
Ryan Mathews has been given a steady workload the past four games, and his performance against the Chiefs was his best of the year.
On 24 carries, Mathews totaled 144 rushing yards, giving him 1,255 yards on the season (the first Chargers running back to reach 1,200 yards since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007). It was also the sixth time this season that Mathews passed the 100-yard rushing mark.
On top of that, Mathews played through a nagging ankle injury that clearly bothered him. The Chargers running back headed to the locker room late in the game only to return moments later and help his team on the last drive.
Rivers Does Enough
Philip Rivers didn't have the type of lights-out game most fans expected, but he did enough to push his team in a winning direction.
Rivers finished 22-of-33 for 229 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that was converted to points by Kansas City. It wasn't a Rivers-like day in regard to passing, but he took care of the ball for the most part and let his receivers make plays in the open.
Novak Steps out of Kaeding Shadow
Chargers fans have long been disappointed by the kicking game in key moments thanks to the memory of former longtime kicker Nate Kaeding, but Nick Novak clearly separated himself from that image.
Not only did Novak hit the game-tying field goal in regulation, but he also managed to send through the go-ahead field goal in overtime from 36 yards that eventually won the game.
Chargers Defense Embarrassed by Kansas City Reserves
To put it bluntly, San Diego's defense was absolutely horrendous against the Chiefs considering that a majority of the offense consisted of backups and reserve players.
The Chargers allowed 332 yards of total offense to Kansas City, including 22 first downs and 143 yards rushing. Third down was especially bad as the Chiefs managed to convert 6-of-14.
To put it into perspective, the Chargers defense held Peyton Manning and the high-powered Broncos offense to 295 yards just two weeks ago, yet Chase Daniel in his first career start plowed ahead for more than 300 with a ragtag crew of second-stringers.
Chargers Offense Inconsistent
San Diego had five straight drives result in punts from the second quarter into the third quarter against Kansas City's second-team defense.
Philip Rivers was sacked three times, and the Chargers managed to score touchdowns just twice in their four trips to the red zone. Give credit to the effort by the Chiefs defense, but San Diego had no excuse for the poor play on offense.
Looking ahead to the playoffs, San Diego's offense can't afford to sputter and die for a quarter or two.
Fear the Beard
Eric Weddle's fake punt conversion was just one of the many mind-blowing moments that occurred in Sunday's game.
Just a few days removed from being named to his second Pro Bowl, Weddle took a direct snap on a punt and fought his way through a wall to pick up a pivotal first down in overtime that eventually set up the go-ahead field goal.
Weddle's efforts didn't stop there as he finished the game with a game-high 12 tackles, including two for losses.
With seconds remaining in regulation and Ryan Succop on to try a 41-yard field goal, it looked as if San Diego's playoff dreams were done...until his kick sailed wide right.
Luck, wind, crowd noise and nerves could have all contributed to the miss, but every Chargers fan must be eternally grateful for the miss as it gave the Chargers a second chance to get the job done. Had that field goal made it through the uprights, we'd be talking about the offseason and the draft instead of the playoffs.
The Last Drive
On the first possession of overtime, the Chargers chewed up nearly 10 minutes of clock during a 16-play, 62-yard drive that set up Novak's go-ahead field goal.
Mathews came up big with two first-down runs during the drive, and Danny Woodhead had a first-down catch on third down that helped set Novak up in good field position. Everything went San Diego's way other than the fact that the drive didn't result in a touchdown.
Then, on Kansas City's ensuing drive, the Chargers surrendered two first downs before forcing three incompletions from Daniel to seal the win. The offense stepped up late and the defense followed suit.