Full Effort Comes Up Short In Loss To Chargers

From Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California

For the first time in the 2011 season, the Chiefs played football for four quarters. They went out and tackled, and blocked and moved the ball at times, stopped the Chargers at times, and did all the things a team needs to do to be successful in the National Football League. Compared to the season’s first two weeks, it was a giant leap forward.

But it still was not good enough. It was not a performance at the level to win a game on the road, in the division. The San Diego Chargers held on and took a 20-17 victory and established themselves in first place in the AFC West.

The defeat left the Chiefs 0-3 on the season, the eighth time in the franchise’s 52-season history where they opened the season losing three straight. Sadly it’s also the second time in the last three years where they began the season this poorly. They have now lost 5 games that count in a row and nine games if the winless pre-season is factored in.

With the ninth month of 2011 just about in the books, they are 0-for-2011.

Yet there was a different feeling in the losing locker room this time. The Chiefs were not embarrassed on this sunny southern California afternoon. These were two teams that were both short a few of their best players due to injury. For the most part, the Chiefs played this game on an even basis with the Chargers.

“All week we knew we had to play significantly better in a couple key areas,” said head coach Todd Haley. “I thought we did a bunch of that and it allowed the game to be close at the end with at least a chance to tie or win the game. Our goal through the week was to take a step as a team. I thought we did that.”

With 86 seconds left in the game, the Chiefs were down by three points. They had the ball at their 34-yard line, but they had no timeouts to play with. QB Matt Cassel found TE Leonard Pope for a 23-yard gain down the middle of the field, setting up 1st-and-10 at the Chargers 43-yard line. They needed a good 20 yards more to set up field goal attempt for Ryan Succop to send the game into overtime.

But on the next play, Cassel threw to the left, trying to connect on a screen pass to RBZ Dexter McCluster. Either his pass was a bit off, or McCluster wasn’t where he was supposed to be, because the ball fell right into the arms of San Diego FS Eric Weddle for the first and only Chiefs turnover of the day. Game, set and match Chargers.

“This one hurts more than the other two because this team battled out there all day,” said Cassel. “It was a great division game. We did a lot of things good all day. As the quarterback, it’s disappointing because you want to get in the position we were in, to get in the two-minute drill and drive the team down and win the game.

“For it to end the way it did with that interception, it’s all on me. I’m hurting inside.”

The full game statistical sheet is not a road map to the outcome of this game. The Chargers had an edge in total yards (375-252), but they also got off 18 more plays and had over a 9-minute time of possession advantage. But the Chiefs were plus-1 on the turnover ratio and they were plus-1 on the sack ratio. The offense was 42 percent on converting third downs and for once they were perfect in goal to go situations on offense, producing two touchdowns.

The best player on the field this Sunday was Chargers RB Ryan Matthews who scored both of the San Diego touchdowns on short runs and finished with 149 yards in total offense on 25 touches. But WR Vincent Jackson had five catches for 63 yards and QB Phillip Rivers threw a pair of interceptions in the first half and nobody other than Mathews was able to move the ball on the ground.

“Right now, we are not a good team, but we can be a good team,” Haley said. “That’s all you need to know. The end of the story has not been written.”

That the Chiefs came out of the first half down just two scores was remarkable and a credit to their defense, that spent a lot of time on the field, but forced a pair of Rivers interceptions. In 30 minutes of play the Chiefs offense did not produce a first down and they gained less than two yards per offensive play.

This is where the defense came up with the necessary plays to keep the Chiefs in the game.

On a 3rd-and-8 play at the Chiefs 34, Rivers got some pressure on the pass rush and his pass to Jackson was badly underthrown and grabbed by FS Kendrick Lewis. His 50-yard return, plus a 15-yard penalty on the Chargers bench for interfering with the sideline official gave the Chiefs offense the ball at the San Diego 20 – easily their best starting field position of the season to that point.

But three plays moved the ball only nine yards. Haley decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 and it appeared Jones got far enough for the first down, but officials hit TE Leonard Pope with a holding call on LB Travis LaBoy. Now facing 4th-and-11, the Chiefs went for the field goal, but suddenly inconsistent Succop was wide right from 38 yards.

The Chargers offense again drove the ball down the field, with a few runs and a dink and dunk attack. This time though, they finally put the ball into the end zone. It was set up by an 18-yard run from Mathews that gave San Diego 1st-and-goal at the Chiefs 8-yard line. Mathews banged ahead for a pair of runs, including from 2 yards for the touchdown. Nick Novak hit the PAT and the home team had a 15-play, 72-yard scoring drive that chewed up 7 minutes, 7 seconds of the clock for a 7-0 lead.

The Chiefs offense was unproductive for the rest of the first half, going three plays and out on three possessions, unable to convert on 3rd-and-4, or 3rd-and-5 or 3rd-and-7. But the defense did provide an extra possession, as Flowers picked off a deep bomb down the middle for WR Malcom Floyd and returned it 43 yards to the Chiefs 43-yard line.

But Flowers suffered a right knee injury on the play and came out of the game. He did not return, although he tried to put himself back in the game late in the second quarter when his replacement Travis Daniels was momentarily injured. He never made it all the way on the field, and the trainers took his helmet away at that point.

A nice punt of 53-yards drove San Diego back to their 10-yard line to begin the Chargers final possession of the half. Rivers directed the next 13 plays, and with 47 seconds left in the period, they had 1st-and-10 at the Chiefs 17. But the defense stiffened and Rivers was incomplete on all three of his throws. That forced Novak on the field for a 35-yard FG that finished up the half with a 10-0 San Diego lead.

There was a definite shift in momentum to start the second half. The Chargers went three plays an out and then Javier Arenas took back a punt return 37 yards to set up the Chiefs at the San Diego 42-yard line. It was the first time this season where the Chiefs were in the opponent’s territory in the second half.

A 6-play drive featured Cassel and WR Dwayne Bowe on the last two plays, the first going for 23 yards and then the second a 4-yard touchdown throw and catch where somehow Bowe got his toes in the end zone. Officials at first did not make a ruling on the play, eventually signaled touchdown and an automatic replay review did not overturn the call. Succop’s PAT left the Chiefs down 10-7 with more than 26 minutes left in the game.

The Chargers answered right back, with their own drive, this one 7 plays, 80 yards and they did it in less than four minutes. Rivers hit a couple of nice passes to TE Randy McMichael for 26, WR Vincent Jackson for 20 and WR Malcom Floyd for 11. Matthews got the touchdown on a 4-yard run and San Diego led 17-7.

Still, the K.C. offense came back with one of its longest drives in some time. They held the ball for 18 plays, going 58 yards and using 9:35 off the clock in the third and fourth quarters. But they ended up only able to get three points, as Succop was good from 33 yards and with just a tick under 13 minutes left in the game, they trailed by 7 points, 17-10.

San Diego came back and got a field goal from Novak of 41 yards and then Cassel took the offense on another excellent drive, going 80 yards on nine plays and ended with Cassel connecting on a 1-yard TD pass to TE Leonard Pope. Succop’s PAT set the final score at 20-17, with just under five minutes left in the game.

The Chiefs defense stopped the Chargers on a 4th-and-1 run by Rivers, giving the offense one more chance. That ended with the Weddle interception and the San Diego victory.

“There were clearly a number of things that happened out there that clearly kept us from having a better chance to win,” Haley said. “We are 0-3, a division loss always hurts a little more; those are hard to get back. We have to come back and build on some of the positive movement we had today against a good team.

“They showed some grit today that I think we’ll be able to carry forward with us. We just have to weather the storm right now.”

13 Responses to “Full Effort Comes Up Short In Loss To Chargers”

  • September 25, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Part of “the storm” is play-calling. That has to change. There is no argument that Bill Muir can do a better job than Todd Haley. I’m glad to see Arenas as our return man. He should have been the guy from day one. McClain has to get more touches and Jones, fewer. And Matt Cassel has to be treated as if he can play the position. If he can’t then sit him down.

  • September 25, 2011  - el cid says:

    Cannot figure first half on offense, 34 yard of offense during the first half. What was that about? Defense did a heck of a job compared to the earlier games. Succop – the Chiefs need to bring in some guy off the street just to shake him up, miss after miss. Cassel found some different guys in the second half to throw to (the last throw to a SD S will be talked about, aye, EDJ.

    I think Haley was calling plays on offense. Had the Chiefs done anything the first half, they would have won.

  • September 25, 2011  - ED J says:

    not gone bash Cassel his play speaks for itself. Like i said defense or special teams needed to get touchdown in order for us to win it didn’t happen we lost. At least we get McNabb Sunday he’s playing as bad as Cassel I’ll take Cassel at least this coming Sunday.

  • September 25, 2011  - tuan says:

    hey el cid do you know why haley keep calling run but no pass ? that is because he known his QB is not good enough but nothing he can do about it because MR Ca$$el is pioli boy, and you know what else ? if thing go so bad haley will be the one to get blame and let go but Ca$$el still here collecting he paycheck.. the D play great today gave up 20 point at SD and good especial team but where the hell is the O ?? did you see how good indy D played the steerler ? but is just doesn’t metter cause no manning = no win !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • September 25, 2011  - JB says:

    “For it to end the way it did with that interception, it’s all on me. I’m hurting inside.”

    Well gee Matt there is nothing more palliative for “hurting inside” than $60M contracts.

    God these assholes wear me out…..

  • September 26, 2011  - JB says:

    By the way tuan–press 1 for English……

  • September 26, 2011  - Chiefs Play Good Enough To Win, But Lose 20-17 : BobGretz.com says:

    [...] GAME STORY: Still not good enough for Chiefs. [...]

  • September 26, 2011  - napahank says:

    I have read all the articles and posts on this and other Chief’s websites but there is little analytical observations such as…

    Cassel-Completed most every pass CALLED by coach. In the first half those pass plays were not dump offs for 3 yards-they were THE CALLED play (not Casssel’s fault).

    The few sacks (in known passng downs because the coach never called first down passes) were because the defender came straight into his face. You can’t throw away ball then (maybe there should be more CALLED 6-8 yard pattern routes?)

    The INT at the end was a timing problem but the big problem was the coach calling a middle screen with 50 seconds left and no time outs. If it was completed there would have been minimal gain and clock running out.

    Cassel’s throws on CALLED DOWNFIELD routes including difficult fade passes were better executed than “Mr. Amazing” Phillip Rivers. Get off Cassel’s back and get on the play caller (whoever that is).

    Has Cassel regressed from Pro Bowl QB of 2010 or has no Moeaki (big target), No Charles (run game support) and no Weis (smart play calling) really the problem?

  • September 26, 2011  - ED J says:

    What game are you watching napahank. Have you played football before. All plays have designed routes running both deep short and intermediate. So he decides where he wants to go with the ba. Second was it coach that over threw screen pass at the end of the game for crying out LOUD. Litsen to how you sound defending a guy who QB rating is as bad as Luke Mcown who is now being benched for a rookie. OH last I remember he had Weis, Moeaki, and Charles against Raiders and Ravens last yr and stunk it up.

  • September 26, 2011  - tuan says:

    sorry JB for my poor english but I think you get what’s I’m trying to said :)

  • September 26, 2011  - leonard says:

    Hey nap. A timing play. What a load. Dan Fouts, who may just know a few things about QB’s said immediately that McCluster saw the blitz, and ran the right pattern for the hot receiver, and had no idea why Cassel did not see this, considering he was looking at him the entire time. Which he does too many times for a veteran QB.

  • September 26, 2011  - napahank says:

    Ok Ed & Leonard you may be right. It is hard to see where the multiple passes to the flat and behind the line all 1st half were check downs or the last of Cassel’s progression when it looked as if the blocking was being set up for that pattern.

    And if what you say is true then why didn’t Haley, Zorn or somebody tell Cassel to throw down field or else. When he did throw down field in the 2nd half with time in the pocket he completed some very good passes. Why were those not attempted in the first half? I just wish I knew what is the “major” problem -play calling or the execution.

  • September 26, 2011  - ED J says:

    How about execution. Cassel is conservative by nature much like Matt Leinhart was in Arizona when he got his chance. Neither guy willing take chances downfield because their arm strength usually leads to picks. You never see Cassel throw anyone open downfield. Only time you see him throw it downfield usually receivers are wide open. Which thats good enough for backup QBs to do on occassions when they get playing time not a starting QB in NFL. Rivers chucks its down the field because he’s got not only arm strength but the confidence in it to do so. I challenge you napahank to watch teams like Bears or even Panthers. Just to see how Qbs with receivers and o-line worst than ours but yet QB still makes plays with their arm to get receivers open.

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