In Saturday night's showdown for the top spot in the AFC West, the Chiefs appeared ready to do battle, while the Chargers seemed not ready for prime time when it mattered most.
The Chargers led 13-10 midway through the third quarter, but the Chiefs scored 20 unanswered points to pull away for the 30-13 victory.
“Maybe we made this game bigger than what it really was,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “As a young team mixed with some veterans, we have to mature and get our guys ready to play. And that’s on me.”
Now 7-7, the Chargers no longer control their destiny. Even if they win their next two games -- on the road next Sunday against the New York Jets and the Dec. 31 season finale against the Oakland Raiders -- the Bolts are going to need some help.
Still, Lynn said it’s important that the Chargers show up for these next two games.
“They’re huge,” Lynn said. “Our playoffs have begun. And there’s no absolute that we’re going to the playoffs, even if we win the next two games. But if we don’t, we damn sure ain’t going.”
Everything the Chargers accomplished during the four-game winning streak they took into Saturday’s contest came unraveled against the Chiefs.
The Chargers were careless with the football, turning it over four times. They made what Lynn characterized as dumb mistakes, being penalized nine times for 61 yards. And after being healthy most of the season, the Chargers saw eight starters leave because of injury at various points during the game.
While making the playoffs seems unlikely, the Chargers still have something to play for: getting to 9-7, with the odd chance they get some help from around the league to get into the postseason for the first time since 2013.
“You’ve got to go play an NFL team next week,” defensive tackle Damion Square said. “You got to walk in and approach those guys like the professionals they are. I know these guys will turn the page. It hurts. At the same time, these guys are professionals and these guys are going to go out and put their talent to work.”
After going four games without an interception, during which he threw for 1,348 yards and four touchdowns, Los Angeles quarterback Philip Rivers regressed.
He threw three interceptions against the Chiefs for the second time this season. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Rivers finished 0-for-9 with two interceptions on passes traveling 15 or more yards in the air -- his most such attempts without a completion in the past 10 seasons.
In his team’s eight-game losing streak against the Chiefs, Rivers has thrown just six touchdowns passes to 13 interceptions.
Rivers knows he has to play better, and said Lynn had a simple message to his players afterward: Just keep going.
“We’ve got two games left, so just finish the right way,” Rivers said. “Just what you’d expect; he’s been very consistent all year long, and this is a disappointing one for all of us. But we’ve got to regroup and go fight these next two to see if it’s enough to get us in.”