Kansas City, Mo. All that talk about San Diego getting better may not be all talk.
Six days after a disappointing Monday night loss to Denver in which they insisted they’d made strides, the Chargers swatted away the flu bug and stomped on Kansas City, 37-7, Sunday, dominating in virtually every phase.
Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, LaDainian Tomlinson had a season-best 71 yards rushing, and Nate Kaeding, who was vomiting with flulike symptoms Saturday, kicked three field goals.
“Last week, we felt like we made progress,” Rivers said. “We had the attitude we were looking for, focus, but we didn’t win. But we knew we got better.”
The Chargers (3-3) battled the flu much of the week. Tomlinson was unable to practice Wednesday, but the five-time Pro Bowl selection showed signs of getting back to his old self. His 36-yard run got the Chargers rolling on their first touchdown drive against the hapless Chiefs (1-6) and was his longest since last Dec. 28 against Denver.
“It kind of got us going,” Tomlinson said. “It was something we needed and it was a big play for us. It was a staple of our offense. It’s been around for years, old power. It was perfectly blocked and was just a great job of execution.”
With cold rain falling in the fourth quarter and Chiefs fans probably thinking nothing else could go wrong, something else did. Jacob Hester blew in from Dustin Colquitt’s right and blocked his punt.
The ball cooperated nicely, skittering 20 yards back into the end zone and waiting there for Hester to fall on it for San Diego’s final TD.
“My leg was coming through, and any time you heard that double thump ... I didn’t see him at all until the last second,” said Colquitt, whose punting has been one of the few bright spots for Kansas City. “That double thump is a bad sound.”
Virtually invincible in Arrowhead Stadium in the 1990s, the Chiefs have lost 10 straight at home and 29 of their last 32.
“We want to win for the home fans, for us, for everyone out there watching,” nose tackle Ron Edwards said. “It’s real painful.”
Rivers was 18 for 30 for 268 yards and three TDs as the Chargers won their third in a row in Kansas City for the first time since 1981. They took a 20-0 halftime lead.
“Any time you come to Kansas City and win, it’s good,” said Rivers, who had two 51-yard completions to Vincent Jackson. “We talked about getting on a roll and you’ve got to win one first before you can. Hopefully, this is something we can build on.”
The Chiefs had hoped a sloppy win over Washington the week before might provide some much-needed momentum to first-year coach Todd Haley’s faltering program. But they played miserably in just about every phase.
“You never want to lose at home and you never want to lose in this fashion,” Cassel said. “It’s going to be a hard film to watch.”
Cassel was only 10 for 25 for 97 yards. He threw three interceptions and an injury-weakened line allowed him to be sacked four times.
The Chargers reeled off 135 yards on the ground after averaging a nearly league-worst 57.6 the first five games.
“It was a game we could have scored 50-something, we felt like,” said Rivers, whose touchdown passes covered 3 yards to Malcolm Floyd, 10 to Jackson and 58 to Darren Sproles, who was wide open in the right flat and outran a safety into the end zone. “What we scored was enough and it’s good to win a game.”
Kaeding connected on kicks of 20, 39 and 19 yards.
“I thought our guys got prepared to play and played well and we were able to take away the things that Kansas City does best,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
Kansas City’s already injury-weakened offensive line took a severe hit late in the first quarter when center Rudy Niswanger went out with a knee injury. Wade Smith, who started for injured left tackle Branden Albert, moved to center and Barry Richardson came off the bench to play left tackle.
The Chiefs did manage to break a six-quarter touchdown drought in their first possession of the second half when Cassel connected with Dwayne Bowe on a 7-yard toss.
NOTES: Both kickers missed a 43-yard field goal. KC rookie Ryan Succop missed after going 4 for 4 the week before and getting the game ball. ... A steady rain fell much of the second half, which the Chiefs had hoped would be in their favor against the Californians. Knowing rain was forecast for Sunday, the Chiefs had practiced in a hard rain all day on Wednesday.