Chargers, Rivers outlast Chiefs

Nov 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (16) makes a catch for a touchdown as Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (27) is late on the coverage during the fourth quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers won 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers, Rivers outlast Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Sunday’s game saw nine lead changes in a wild AFC West matchup that produced 79 combined points.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers ensured his team hit the scoreboard last when it mattered en route to a 41-38 win over the Chiefs.

After the Chiefs took a 38-24 lead with 1:22 remaining in the game, Rivers marched his team 78 yards on seven plays. He capped off the drive with a 26-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, who beat Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith and safety Quintin Demps in the left corner of the end zone with :24 remaining in the game.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Sunday’s result was “an outstanding team win” and offered praise on his quarterback.

“Philip Rivers, once again, outstanding, lights out,” McCoy said. “When the game is on the line, he throws the ball down field and makes the big plays.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid also complimented Rivers.

“I thought it was a great throw on his part,” Reid said. “They say it’s a game of inches; we were off by an inch right there on the coverage. We had a man over the top and a an underneath him and Philip hit it right in the right spot.”

Time and again, Rivers found his receivers down the field against a Chiefs pass defense that entered Week 12 ranked ninth in the league, previously allowing 219.8 yards per game.

Rivers’ favorite target on the day was wide receiver Keenan Allen, who snatched nine catches for 124 yards on 12 targets. Rivers also found wide receiver Eddie Royal four times for 87 yards and tight end Ladarius Green three times for 80 yards, including a 60-yard fourth-quarter scoring strike, his first touchdown of the season.

“We knew that we could move the ball down the field and we knew that we’ve got playmakers on this team,” Green said. “That’s exactly what showed.”

Rivers finished the contest completing 27-of-39 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns, spread among Ajirotutu, Green and running back Danny Woodhead, who also rushed for a score.

The Chargers snapped a three-game losing streak and moved to 5-6 with the win.

San Diego also scored the most points allowed by the Chiefs this season, but they were arguable helped by the absences of two of the Chiefs top pass rushers.

Outside linebackers Justin Houston (elbow) and Tamba Hali (ankle) left the game in the first half and did not finish the game.

But don’t look for the Chiefs to use that as an excuse as to why they lost.

“This is the National Football League, when people go down, everybody has to step up,” Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Obviously, it hurt us a little bit not having two better players on the field. Regardless, we still had a chance. (San Diego) had 70-some yards to go with a minute and 22 seconds. We just have to pull away with that win. We’ll take that every game.”

The Chiefs, who dropped to 9-2 on the season, certainly had their chances to put the game away.

Kansas City held a 14-3 lead late in the first half behind a 32-yard receiving touchdown by Donnie Avery and a 7-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles.

Avery led the Chiefs with 91 yards on four catches, while Charles paced the Chiefs with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 14 carries.

And the Chiefs appeared to be in victory lane when quarterback Alex Smith found wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for a 5-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to set up Rivers’ heroics.

Smith, who had his best game on the season statistically through the air with 294 yards on 26-of-38 attempts, said he felt the touchdown put the pressure back on the Chargers.

“We knew in that situation there was a minute and 20-something on there, and they had been good on offense all day and obviously Philip was playing well,” Smith said. “So you knew there was a chance for sure, nothing is guaranteed, but you sure do put the pressure back on them.”

With Smith’s three touchdown passes and Charles’ two scores, the Chiefs produced a season-high 38 points, the most since the Chiefs scored 42 in a win against the Seattle Seahawks in 2010.

But the only thing that mattered Sunday against the Chargers was the final score.

“We had a tough loss, obviously,” Reid said. “A lot of points scored on both sides and the last person with the all ended up winning the game.”

Notes: Chiefs coach Andy Reid said outside linebackers Tamba Hali (ankle) and Justin Houston (elbow) are scheduled for MRIs Monday morning … The Chiefs defense allowed 17 or less points to start the season at 9-0 … The defense has allowed 27 and 41 points, respectively, in the two-game slide … Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano notched his second straight touchdown reception in as many games … Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson recorded 10 tackles (nine solo), giving him 957 for his career, which ranks third in team history … Chargers running back Ryan Mathews left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and did not return … The Chargers close out the season with four of the final five games at Qualcomm Stadium, including the season finale against the Chiefs.