- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen was wondering aloud if the officials missed a penalty on a gutsy two-point conversion call by the Chiefs in the final seconds Sunday.
Many in the Kansas City locker room thought tight end Tony Gonzalez, Thigpen's first option on the play, was held up by a San Diego defender. After Gonzales got bottled up, Thigpen, who is improving steadily, backpedaled and threw a desperation ball that had no chance, giving San Diego a 20-19 victory.
And what was San Diego's response to Thigpen's claim that a penalty could have been called?
"Shut up, please," San Diego linebacker Jyles Tucker said. "That's the nature of football. You adjust. How many tough calls have we had on us all season, and [Sunday]?"
Had San Diego not been the victim of a questionable call, Kansas City may never have gotten to complain about the call on the two-pointer. On second down and 10 from the San Diego 18-yard-line with 46 seconds remaining, the officials called a late pass interference penalty on Chargers safety Clinton Hart, who appeared to cleanly break up a pass directed toward Gonzalez.
"I can't comment on that," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "You guys saw it ... It's a possibly game-changing play."
The call gave Kansas City a first down at the San Diego 1. Three plays later, Thigpen hit Gonzalez for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining in the game.
Thigpen reasoned that the Chiefs probably weren't going to get two calls going their way at such a critical time.
"You always want to, at least, go up and say something to the ref," Thipgen said of the final play. "Not necessarily question his call, but at least try to ask him why not a penalty there. Then again, that puts a lot on the ref to call a flag on a two-point conversion. That's just the way it goes."
The sequence was a harrowing reminder of Week 2 for San Diego. With Denver driving in the final seconds inside the Chargers' 10-yard, the officials blew a call that should have been a Denver fumble. The Broncos then scored and won the game on a two-point conversion. Still, the Chargers weren't dwelling on the Denver disaster while Kansas City lined up for its two-point attempt.
"We had no time to think of Denver," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. "We had to make a play."
The Chargers did, avenging some misery from Week 2. However, Kansas City, which has lost three consecutive winnable games, flew home Sunday night knowing it all could have been different. Chiefs holder Dustin Colquitt and kicker Connor Barth had a bad exchange on a PAT in the second quarter and the Chiefs had to settle for six points and a 13-6 lead.
After losing so many games they could have won this season, the Chargers improved to 4-5 and trail Denver by one game in the AFC West, winning a game they could have easily lost.
"This was a big one," Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips said.
Some other observations:
Rivera wins debut: Tucker said the final play was proof that defensive coordinator Ron Rivera already has rubbed off on his new unit. Rivera, who was San Diego inside linebackers coach, took over for the fired Ted Cottrell on Oct. 28.
Tucker said Rivera focused all week on stopping the Chiefs in the end zone. He said it was a major priority.
"On that last play, we honed in," Tucker said. "That's what he told us to do all week."
Tucker said he thought the unit played much better in the second half when the Chiefs were held to six points. The Chiefs scored a touchdown on a 12-play, 95-yard drive that elapsed seven minutes, eight seconds on their opening drive.
"We finished much better than we started," Tucker said. "We adjusted well."
The Chargers used some Cover 2 defense in the second half. They hadn't used that defense much at all. Rivera used the Cover 2 as defensive coordinator in Chicago.
Still, San Diego has improvements to make. In Cottrell's last nine quarters, San Diego didn't have a sack or an interception. Sunday, it had one sack and no interceptions. The new defense is definitely a work in progress.
Gotta feel for the Chiefs: Kansas City is no longer a joke of the league. Yes, the Chiefs are only 1-8 and yes, they have lost five straight games. But this team is fighting.
After losing back-to-back games by a combined score of 68-10, the young Chiefs have lost three straight games late. Against the Jets, Kansas City lost with one minute remaining. Against Tampa Bay last week, Kansas City blew a 21-point lead and lost in overtime. Sunday, it lost in the final minute.
"Eventually, it is going to fall our way," Thigpen said.
The Chiefs opened the game without three defensive starters and lost a few more during the game. They were down to their fourth-string running back and Thigpen is their third-string quarterback.
"Progress is progress," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. "But you like to win on top of that and we haven't done that."
Still, the Chargers were impressed.
"That is a good team," Tucker said. "Their record doesn't mean much right now."
Rivers answers the bell: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers wasn't very good Sunday -- until he had to be.
Rivers threw two bad interceptions. He looked out of sync and lost. And then we went out and won the game. Rivers threw two touchdown passes in the second half. He is becoming one of the most clutch players in the league and he will keep the Chargers in the race all season.
4dEric D. Williams
4dEric D. Williams
4dEric D. Williams