NFL Game Summary - San Diego at Kansas City
(Monday, September 13th)
Final Score: Kansas City 21, San Diego 14
Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - Rookie Dexter McCluster returned a punt 94
yards for a touchdown and Kansas City used a last-minute defensive stand to
thwart a San Diego drive and held on for a season-opening 21-14 win at a
renovated Arrowhead Stadium.
Jamaal Charles broke off a 56-yard touchdown run for the Chiefs (1-0), who
snapped a five-game skid against the Chargers.
In soggy conditions, Philip Rivers led San Diego (0-1) from its own 33 to the
Kansas City four in final minutes. He converted a 4th-and-3 with a 12-yard
pass to Legedu Naanee.
Rivers then threw incomplete to the left side of the field, and on 2nd-and-
goal Darren Sproles was bottled up for a two-yard loss. Rivers tried to hit
Malcolm Floyd on third down in the back of the end zone, but lobbed the ball
too far and out of bounds. On fourth down, Rivers bought time but again fired
to the back of the end zone for Floyd, who seemed to slip trying to cut back
to the ball as it fell incomplete with 33 seconds remaining.
"Not a pretty game, but I'm not in the business of worrying how attractive it
looks," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "We've been through that in the
preseason. I thought our team came out here tonight and we did enough to win."
The last-minute stand was uplifting for the Chiefs in the first game for new
defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The former head coach of the Cleveland
Browns took over the reins of a Kansas City defense that finished 30th in the
league in yards allowed last year.
Matt Cassel connected on 10-of-22 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown for the
Chiefs, who are also under the guidance of former Notre Dame head coach
Charlie Weis as their new offensive coordinator.
Despite the new coaches, the Chiefs, coming off a 4-12 campaign, compiled just
197 total yards to 389 for the four-time defending AFC West champions in the
Rivers ended 22-of-39 for 298 yards with a pair of TDs for the Chargers, who
started life without LaDainian Tomlinson, the leading rusher in team history.
A major part of the team's identity over the past decade, Tomlinson bolted for
the New York Jets in the offseason.
Rookie Ryan Mathews, a first-round draft pick, led the way with 75 yards on
19 carries. Naanee had five catches for 110 yards for San Diego, which was
13-3 a season ago.
The Chargers had to look for other offensive weapons in the season opener,
especially in the absence of Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who is
in a contract dispute with the club.
Tight end Antonio Gates did just that in the first quarter, catching a three-
yard TD catch for a 7-0 San Diego lead inside two minutes remaining.
The Chiefs needed just three plays on the ensuing possession to tie the game
with Charles busting off left guard and rumbling 56 yards to the end zone.
Mathews put the ball on the ground after a 15-yard run and the Chiefs used the
turnover to their advantage midway through the second.
"I was just fighting for more yards and the ball was out of my body a little
bit," Mathews said. "It was a little bit slippery. They took it from me. I
should have had two hands on it."
Brandon Carr returned the ball 23 yards to the 12, and it took just three
plays for KC to move in front as Cassel found rookie tight end Tony Moeaki
for a two-yard TD grab inside six minutes left until halftime.
"We wanted to take care of the ball, and especially how conditions got worse
throughout the game, we weren't going to take a chance to try and turn the
ball over," Cassel said. "I was doing my best to protect the ball throughout
the night. We did that. There were no turnovers tonight and I thought that
With just under two minutes to go, Mike Scifres out-punted his coverage,
booming the ball 60 yards. McCluster, a second-round draft pick this year out
of Ole Miss, veered left and made a tackler miss before going the distance for
the longest punt return in Chiefs history.
The Chargers were held without a first down on their last seven possessions of
the half. The punted on their first two touches of the third quarter, but
Rivers' 59-yard TD pass to Naanee on a busted coverage capped a 91-yard march
and had the visitors within seven points with 2:23 left in the third.
Rivers guided his team to the KC 32 midway through the fourth, but a 4th-and-9
pass intended for Naanee fell incomplete. The Chiefs then punted to give the
Chargers one final chance.
A $375 million renovation project to the stadium was completed earlier this
year...This was Kansas City's first win in the series since September 30,
2007...Charles finished with 11 carries for 92 yards...Gates had five catches
for 76 yards...Before Monday, the Chargers had scored at least 20 points in 21
straight games...This was KC's first Monday night win since 2004...Thomas
Jones, who played last year for the Jets, rushed 11 times for 39 yards for
Kansas City, which went 1-of-11 on third down conversions.
09/14 04:11:29 ET
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