There was a moment early in the fourth quarter Sunday that all the stars were aligned for the Kansas City Chiefs. They were handling business against San Diego, and two other games transpiring elsewhere were going exactly as they needed.
In the end, the Chiefs were the only ones who held on.
Kansas City beat the Chargers 19-7 to eliminate them from playoff contention, but was knocked out itself when Baltimore rallied past Cleveland and Houston did the same against Jacksonville.
"We're all disappointed not to make the playoffs," Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. "I think the team, the coaching staff realizes we had the opportunity and we just didn't get it done."
Kansas City (9-7) squandered numerous chances in losses to Denver, Arizona and San Francisco, any of which would have gotten the Chiefs into the playoffs for the second straight year.
"We were 7-3 at one point, sort of got on a slide at the back end of the season that was uncharacteristic of us as a team," said Chase Daniel, who started Sunday for injured quarterback Alex Smith. "But at the same time, you end the season on a high note, with a victory."
There were other high notes, too. Cairo Santos kicked four field goals to cap a solid rookie season, and Daniel played relatively error free while Smith sat out with a lacerated spleen.
Then there was Justin Houston, who had four sacks to finish with 22 on the season, breaking the franchise record set by Derrick Thomas in 1990. Houston had a few minutes left to try to get the NFL record of 22 1/2 set by Michael Strahan in 2001, but mostly fell into pass coverage.
I'm still heartbroken about not going to the playoffs. That's what I set my goals on," Houston said. "The individual records, it'll mean something when I'm done playing. There's nothing more important than putting the ring on."
The Chargers (9-7) never gave themselves much of a chance in a game they need to win to reach the playoffs, falling to their AFC West rival for the second time this season.
Nick Novak missed a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth, a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal was overturned by a video review when the ball appeared to skip off the turf — San Diego went for it on fourth down and Philip Rivers threw incomplete. Then with about 4 minutes left, Donald Brown was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 20.
Rivers was intercepted for a second time in the closing seconds of the game.
"That's the most disappointing thing. For everything that was at stake and for us to play we did," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "I'm just very disappointed."
Photos from the Chiefs Week 17 matchup against the Chargers
Rivers finished with 291 yards passing to go over 4,000 in a season for the sixth time, though he also threw two interceptions. Branden Oliver ran for 71 yards and a touchdown.
"We fought like crazy," Rivers said. "There's soon to be 20 teams that will be sitting in our same position, and they're disappointed to not be moving on. But we fought to the end. We won nine football games and fell one short of getting ourselves a 17th game."
INJURY WOES: The Chargers began the game without running back Ryan Mathews, wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Chris Watt. They ended it without right tackle D.J. Fluker, cornerback Shareece Wright, wide receiver Eddie Royal and safety Marcus Gilchrist due to injuries.
SANTOS SHINES: Not only did Santos match the franchise rookie record of 25 field goals in a season set by Ryan Succop, the kicker he beat out for the job in training camp, he also passed Jan Stenerud's rookie record of 112 points. "I'm happy with him and the progress he's made," Reid said, "but we also have to do better in the red zone."
CHARLES HITS 1,000: Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles only ran for 53 yards, but he still passed 1,000 for the fifth time. That includes three straight since he tore his ACL.
SACK CITY: Houston may have had four sacks, but the rest of the Chiefs added three more to the tally. "There were other guys who were getting pressure," Chargers offensive lineman Chad Rinehart said. "It was a team effort and he was the guy out there who was getting the finished product."
SEASON SWEEP: The Chiefs wrapped up their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2005-06 by sweeping the Chargers for the first time since 2003. "They beat us twice this year," Rivers said, "so they were the better team. Head-to-head, they beat us both times."