Head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith can breathe a sigh of relief as, for now, their jobs appear safe after the San Diego Chargers blew out the hapless Kansas City Chiefs 31-13 on Thursday night. The win pulls the Chargers even at 4-4 and are now a half-game behind the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos, who travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Chiefs fall to 1-7, still have led a game in regulation this season, and on Nov. 11 will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, where former head coach Todd Haley now works as offensive coordinator. San Diego opened the scoring on Thursday night with a seven-play, 80-yard drive where quarterback Philip Rivers completed all four of his pass attempts for 70 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates, the 52nd time the two have hooked up for a touchdown, extending their own NFL record. The Chiefs responded with an impressive 17-play drive that spanned 64 yards and took up over eight minutes of the game clock, but came to an end when Chargers linebacker Donald Butler knocked the ball out of second-year wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin’s arm for a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Quentin Jammer. Following the fumble, the Chargers drove 71 yards in 12 plays as Nick Novak added a 25-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-0. Kansas City put their first points on the scoreboard with a 49-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with 2:56 to play in the first half. The Chargers drove down to the Chiefs’ one-yard line and had an opportunity to build upon their seven-point lead entering the break, but Rivers made an ill-advised attempt to squeeze the ball to tight end Dante Rosario, who was blanketed by safety Eric Berry, who came down with the interception for the touchback. Rivers’ interception was the only mistake he’d make on the night. Coming off two forgettable performances in losses to the Broncos and Cleveland Browns, Rivers completed 18-of-20 attempts for 220 yards with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 125.0 on the night. What makes Rivers’ performance more impressive was the Chargers were playing without two of their top three receivers, with free agent additions Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal both inactive due to hamstring injuries. Their absences thrust recent additions Seji Ajirotutu and Danario Alexander into larger roles on offense, with the two combining for four receptions and 89 yards on Thursday night. Chargers running backs Ryan Mathews, Jackie Battle and Ronnie Brown added 125 yards on 23 carries, with Brown adding a team-high five receptions as Rivers’ preferred target on frequent check-downs.
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