KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The four-game losing streak that threatened their season now seems so long ago for the Chiefs.
They all but buried it in claiming their most important victory of the season Saturday night. They won a showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers 30-13 at Arrowhead Stadium to surge back into the lead in the AFC West.
The Chiefs (8-6) can clinch their second consecutive division championship by winning either of their next two games, on Christmas Eve against the Miami Dolphins at Arrowhead or on New Year’s Eve against the Broncos in Denver. The Chiefs would hold the tiebreaker against either of the two AFC West teams — the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders — that could conceivably wind up in a tie for the division title.
Saturday’s victory wasn’t one of Kansas City’s most artistic of the season. The Chiefs twice had to settle for field goals while inside the Los Angeles 20. Harrison Butker, their normally reliable kicker, missed a field goal attempt. They took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, only to see the Chargers forge ahead in the second half.
But the Chiefs rallied themselves, intercepting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers three times and forcing a fumble in the second half. Marcus Peters, in his first game after a suspension, had two of the interceptions. Kareem Hunt rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown and also caught a pass for a score.
Given the stakes, the victory was as solid as any the Chiefs have had.
“You take any kind of win tonight, but certainly one like that for sure, just the way the team played,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “That was a red-hot offense, hadn’t turned the ball over in a lot of weeks. They had been real productive. Our defense, to do what they did tonight, was impressive. I thought the way our [offensive] line [played] and the way Kareem ran … it was impressive and fun to watch back there.”
The Chiefs wobbled severely this season, losing those four straight games and six of seven at one point to lower expectations on what once seemed to be a promising season.
The Chiefs snapped out of it by beating the Raiders last Sunday. After defeating the Chargers, Kansas City has righted itself at the right time.
“All of us realize how things can flip, either way,” Smith said. “We just want to keep the edge we’re playing with, keep that mentality. I think we’ve got a good thing going.”
It’s not surprising the Chiefs found their comfort zone against AFC West opponents. The win was Kansas City’s eighth straight against the Chargers and its 15th in the past 16 games against divisional opponents.
Playing against the Dolphins next week means stepping out of divisional play, but the Chiefs still have plenty on the line.
“The stakes will be ever higher,” Smith said. “You win the game, you win the division. It doesn’t get any better than that.”