Kansas City, Mo. There has been a sign outside the locker room in the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice facility the past couple of weeks offering a three-word dictum: “Eliminate Bad Football.”
Romeo Crennel couldn’t find better words to describe the Chiefs’ performance Sunday.
“It was bad football,” he conceded, minutes after watching Kansas City commit six turnovers and get blown out again at home, this time 37-20 by the San Diego Chargers.
“You could see it was bad football,” Crennel continued, “but we have a game to be played next week, and we have to stay together and not point fingers.”
There aren’t enough fingers to go around.
Matt Cassel threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted three times in the first half, when San Diego built a 27-6 lead.
Jamaal Charles lost two fumbles to overshadow his touchdowns rushing and receiving. Shaun Draughn had a fumble, Eric Winston struggled all day at right tackle and Eric Berry couldn’t keep up with Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
Just about the only bright spot for Kansas City (1-3) was wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who had seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown that came far too late to matter.
“We’ve got to solve it and we’ve got to solve it quick,” said Cassel, who was booed lustily all afternoon. “We talk about it, but we obviously have to go out there and do a better job.”
The regular officials were back on the field Sunday, and both teams kept referee Bill Leavy’s crew busy. They combined for 15 penalties for 150 yards.
Philip Rivers threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns for the AFC West-leading Chargers (3-1), who bounced back nicely from a 27-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last weekend and improved to 8-2 in their past 10 games against Kansas City.
Jackie Battle had a pair of scores against his former team, and Eddie Royal also caught a touchdown pass, helping the Chargers forget all about their debacle last season in Kansas City.
The teams were tied in the closing seconds when Rivers fumbled a snap, preventing San Diego from attempting the winning field goal. The game went to overtime and Kansas City prevailed.
“We made a big step today in terms of understanding when we have adversity, we have to handle it individually and collectively,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
It’s a lesson the Chiefs are still trying to learn.
“When you look at that, it’s almost surprising that we’ve gotten one (win),” Winston said. “It’s obviously unacceptable and it’s on everybody.”
The problems started right away: Berry was flagged twice for pass interference on the first possession, and Rivers capped a 76-yard drive with an easy pass to Royal for the touchdown.
Then the cacophony of errors truly began for Kansas City.
Cassel’s third pass of the game was intercepted by Eric Weddle, giving San Diego the ball at the Chiefs 28. Four plays later, Nick Novak’s 25-yard field goal made it 10-0.
On the Chiefs’ next possession, Charles was stripped of the ball by Takeo Spikes on the first play after a false start. San Diego took over at the Chiefs 5, and Battle pounded forward twice to give the Chargers a 17-0 lead — all before Kansas City had run five offensive plays.
“Putting the ball on the ground, I know I can’t do that,” Charles said. “The only way we can win ballgames is if we don’t turn the ball over. We did a terrible job, especially me.”
Charles fumbled again midway through the second quarter, but this time the Chargers gave it right back. Rivers underthrew Robert Meacham, and Brandon Flowers made the interception.
Kansas City managed to go 85 yards in just five plays, Charles providing the highlight on an electrifying 37-yard touchdown run. But the momentum was squandered on the its next possession, when Cassel threw well behind Tony Moeaki, and Chargers linebacker Donald Butler grabbed hold of the deflection and waltzed 21 yards untouched to give San Diego a 27-6 lead.
Cassel threw his third interception deep in San Diego territory near the end of the half.
The Chiefs put together a long drive to start the third quarter, and Charles’ 13-yard TD catch with 8:40 left gave the hardy Kansas City fans still sticking around some hope.
But after rallying from a franchise-record 18 points down to beat New Orleans last Sunday, the Chiefs couldn’t stop giving away chances to get back in the game.
They went three-and-out on two straight series, and Draughn fumbled on the next.
The Chargers put a tidy bow on an easy if underwhelming victory when Rivers found Battle out of the backfield for a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“We’re a team and we just can’t let anybody break us apart,” Charles said, trying to sum up the performance. “We did a terrible job today at home and we’ve got to play better.”
Notes: The Chiefs have been outscored 41-6 in the first quarter this season. ... Cassel has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles through four games. ... DE Ropati Pitoitua had two sacks for Kansas City in place of Glenn Dorsey (calf).