Chargers lose to Chiefs, retire LaDainian Tomlinson’s number

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Two months ago the San Diego Chargers had great expectations for the season and most NFL analysts agreed. Now, after a 33-3 loss to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, it is clear the Chargers won’t make the playoffs. The best they can do now is have a 500 season — if they win their last six games.

It’s been frustrating for the entire team, which became apparent to everyone when network television focused on quarterback Philip Rivers and star tight end Antonio Gates having a heated argument late in the second quarter, before the score was out of hand, and there was still plenty of time for Rivers and his teammates to have a comeback and win the game.

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates having an argument during the time out. (YouTube)
Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates having an argument during the time out. (YouTube)

It’s not likely the hard feelings lasted very long, Rivers and Gates got together later on the bench to try and figure things out. After the game Rivers said, “Really, what he said doesn’t matter. Brothers fuss and fight, if any of you have brothers. I love Antonio and I think he’ll tell you the same thing. It’s two of probably the most competitive guys on the team, been here long as anybody. I think we’re kinda at our last straw, you know?”

Gates echoed Rivers’ sentiments. “It’s just the losing. We’re two guys who love each other, out there competing. Things over the last six weeks, the struggling; that’s what it comes down to. Don’t nobody want it as bad as we do. “We’ve tried so hard for so long. We both are in position to help the team. He saw something one way. I saw it the other way.”

Rivers and Gates have been teammates for eleven years and their deep friendship is almost legend in the NFL. On top of that they have been one of the most successful quarterback-tight end combinations in NFL history.

It wasn’t just the connection between Gates and Rivers that went wrong on Sunday, the Chargers performed badly in all phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. When Javontee Herndon muffed a punt return that, as a fair catch would have put the Chargers on their own 44-yard line, that about summed up the level of poor execution by the team. The Chiefs recovered the ball and then scored.

Herndon had caught several punt and kick off returns before, so it isn’t like he’s inexperienced, he just made a mistake that cost his team a lot.

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates during training camp in August (Claudia Gestro)
Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates during training camp in August (Claudia Gestro)

And it’s not like he was the only Chargers to do so. Rivers is throwing for a season average 321 yards per game, but Sunday he was held to 178 yards, completing19 of 30. He also had a pass picked off by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who returned it 17 yards for a score.

The defense gave up 26 points to Kansas City, plus 152 yards on the ground. In the fourth quarter Spencer Ware took a hand off from Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and ran 52 yards before Jason Verrett could tackle him. That put Kansas City on the Chargers 25 and the Chiefs would score five plays later when Ware took it in from three yards out.

After the game head coach Mike McCoy said his team didn’t quit, it was just poor execution. “Obviously it was a bad day of Chargers football, in all three phases.” Philip Rivers said, “It’s about as tough as it gets.”

The Chiefs are playing great football right now, their win at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday their fourth in a row after losing five straight games. They were feeling so good they even went for a touchdown on fourth and one, with 346-pound defensive lineman Dontari Poe scoring a TD.

Quarterback Alex Smith a good day over all, passing for 253 yards with no interceptions. He didn’t have any touchdown passes either, but it didn’t matter on Sunday. The final score was 33-3, Kansas City.

The big highlight for the Chargers: during halftime they retired LaDainian Tomlinson’s number 21. The Chargers’ number one pick in the 2001 draft and the first running back picked, he played 141 games with the Chargers, racking up eight 1,000-yard seasons, for a total 11,760 yards rushing with the Chargers.

LaDainian Tomlinson (YouTube)
LaDainian Tomlinson (YouTube)

Tomlinson also played two seasons with the New York Jets, bringing his total yardage on the ground to 13,684. He also had a total of 4,772 receiving yards in his career.

The Chargers next game will be against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Florida. The Chiefs travel to Houston to face the Texans.

 Claudia Gestro contributed to this article

Top photo: LaDainian Tomlinson’s banner at Qualcomm Stadium (YoutTube)