Chiefs vs. Chargers: Game Takeaways

Here are a few takeaways from the Chiefs’ 23-20 victory over the Chargers

Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) and San Diego Chargers (5-2) had a little something for everyone. 

Whether you're into milestone records being broken, game-winning field goals or young players stepping up in the biggest games of their careers, this game had it all.

But the biggest takeaway from this game was running back Jamaal Charles becoming the franchise's all-time leading rusher after carrying the ball 22 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.  Charles needed just 53 yards coming into the game to surpass Priest Holmes (6,070) for No. 1 on the all-time list.

"I'm happy for him," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Charles breaking the record. "It's well deserved. Jamaal is a heck of a player. We counted on him a lot today in a big-time role. A lot of times, there wasn't necessarily something there for him but he found something there and made some nice plays."

"I wasn't even worried about the record," Charles said after the game. "I just wanted to go out there and play football. I thank my teammates for helping me get to that goal today. I thank the coaches. I thank the organization and I thank the man above because he gave me the blessing to go out there and do my job today."

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Reid was right; the Chiefs leaned on Charles throughout this game and made a concerted effort to run the football against the Chargers.

In the first half alone, the Chiefs ran the ball 22 times for 85 yards, compared to just 4 of 7 for 53 yards through the air.

But on the first play of the second quarter, Charles took it from the 16-yard line and slashed, dashed and leaped his way into the end zone, getting spun around on a big-hit combination from Chargers safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Brandon Flowers in the process.

But Charles landed in the end zone on this, one of the most spectacular plays of the year and* *had broken a special record in Chiefs history at the same time.

"I know the play where it happened on," Charles said. "It was a great feeling. It happened because of the man above. He gave me the strength. That was a special moment for me."

After the game, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said the plan coming in wasn't necessarily to lean on the running game as much as they did, but it was more about how the Chargers defense was playing against them.

"I don't even know how much of it is intentional," Smith said of the emphasis on running the ball against the Chargers. "It felt like they were just playing us soft, especially early, you looked at some of the checks they had to some of our formations and really, I felt like some of the things we've been doing the last few weeks, they were very aware of and we're going to try and stop it."

Charles said the offense was just in rhythm on Sunday.

"It was just clicking," Charles said. "We wanted to fight and we came out with a will. Our identity is we keep the ball from the other team and we eat up clock. We keep on doing that to any team—it's possible that we're going to win any game."

As Charles pointed out, the Chiefs dominated time of possession in this game, holding the ball for 39 minutes compared to just 21 for the Chargers.

"I think this team is in a good place mentally," Smith explained. "We took this challenge on. No one had given us a chance. I think we understood that coming into this game, we were a couple plays away from being 4-1. We understood that we didn't make the plays though, and this was an opportunity for us to show what we were made of."

Besides Charles, the other hero from this game had to be rookie kicker Cairo Santos, who hit all three of his field goal attempts (28, 40, 48) on the day. One of those was the 48-yard game-winner with just 28 seconds remaining in the game, which gave the Chiefs the 23-20 lead and ultimate victory.

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"The kid won the job and I felt like he was going to make it," Reid said of his rookie kicker after the game. "[Santos] had a great week of practice and he's made the opportunities that he's had here over the last couple of games. He was due for an opportunity like this and he stepped up and did a heck of a job."

After the Chargers were able to drive down the field and tie the game at 20 on a 48-yard field goal by Nick Novak with just less than two minutes remaining, the Chiefs had an opportunity to set up a potential game-winning drive. 

With 1:57 remaining in the game, the Chiefs began the drive on their own eight yard line.

After an incompletion to Frankie Hammond on first down, Smith scrambled for nine yards on second down to give them a little breathing room. But it was a 15-yard personal-foul facemask penalty on Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget that gave the Chiefs even better field position after the run.

Just two plays later, Smith found Dwayne Bowe for 19 yards deep down the middle of the field that gave the Chiefs the ball at midfield.

Then it was two consecutive passes to tight end Travis Kelce, the first for 16 yards and then the second for eight yards, which gave the Chiefs the ball at the Chargers 30-yard line.

That gave Santos an opportunity for a 48-yard game-winning field goal attempt.

Santos spoke about that final field goal attempt.

"Thomas (Gafford) and Dustin (Colquitt), I admire those guys so much because before that kick, we got together and did a little prayer," Santos said. "We knew that it was going to come down to the situation like that. It calmed me down so much and it's so amazing how powerful God is and to make me so comfortable. I'm very grateful to have the teammates that I have and the coaching staff that trusts to put me in that position."

Photos from the Chiefs week seven match up against the San Diego Chargers

Having kicked in just five NFL games coming into Sunday's contest, Santos was in unfamiliar territory, lining up a game-winning field goal attempt on the road against a divisional rival who is tied for the best record in the NFL.

Santos explained what was going through his head before he kicked it.

"Just trust. I did my own routine and one thing about kicking, the goal post is always the same length, the ball is always the same. I just wanted to go out on the field and feel the wind—so the [Chargers] calling the timeout, that helped me feel how strongly the wind was actually blowing so I just trusted my swing and the ball stayed pretty straight."

Santos tried to put into words what making that kick felt like.

"That's what we work for," he explained. "That's what we live for is that feeling of achieving. Just doing our job and helping." 

Another player who has been helping the Chiefs for a couple of years now is fullback Anthony Sherman, who once again showed us on Sunday why he's one of the best fullbacks in the NFL.

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On the first play of the fourth quarter from the Chargers 11 yard line, Sherman took the short first-and-10 pass from Alex Smith and made some moves you don't normally see from a fullback in the open field.

Sherman showed elusiveness, vision and the obvious strength we knew he had to get into the end zone after taking a pass that looked to be going nowhere. This gave the Chiefs the 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Despite making one of the key plays in the thrilling victory on Sunday, Sherman wanted to point the credit back to Santos for what he was able to do in making his kicks.

"Santos won that game," Fullback Anthony Sherman explained in the locker room after the game. "He's a great kicker. It's good to see for him to get back on and consistently make some field goals for us. He's such a good kid that you're really happy to see him succeed."

Another player Sherman talked about after the game was cornerback Phillip Gaines, who played the best game of his young career on Sunday.

"The sky is the limit for him," Sherman said of Gaines. "He's done a great job of all season, listening to coaching, taking it, studying, learning from those young guys and he's just done a great job of fitting in and the sky's the limit. That's why they drafted him."

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Gaines filled in as the nickelback for injured starter Chris Owens, who wasn't able to play on Sunday because of a knee injury suffered two weeks ago against the 49ers.

In what was the biggest play of his young career, Gaines knocked down the third-down pass attempt from Philip Rivers to receiver Keenan Allen in the end zone and forced the Chargers to a field goal, which preserved the Chiefs lead in the fourth quarter.

"We have 10 games left so we'll enjoy it on the flight back and then we'll get back on it," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of the win on Sunday. "We played a good football team and one that's in the AFC West which is very important that we're competing against in that area. It's a good win but we also realize there is a lot of season left."

After tough losses on the road to the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers already this season, Reid explained what those losses and this win could do for this team moving forward.

"Any time you lose in the National Football League, it tests your character and it helps," Reid said. "Without adversity, you don't build character and these guys haven't wavered at all. It doesn't really matter who's in and who's not in. They just go and they go like 100 miles an hour and they practice that way.

"It's important that we keep that up."

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