KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The San Diego Chargers were staring down their fourth straight loss when Philip Rivers stepped under center, peered across the line at the Kansas City defense and called for the snap.
Less than a minute later, the entire narrative had flipped.
Rivers had deftly guided San Diego downfield against the previous impenetrable Chiefs, and his 26-yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining on Sunday not only gave his team a dramatic 41-38 victory but also kept the Chargers' season alive.
"It's one of those you'll never forget, that's for sure," Rivers said. "It's kind of what our season's been about. Can you drive and score at the end in 2 minutes?"
The Chargers (5-6) have been on the other side of that ledger so often this season, losing three straight by a combined 18 points. Another defeat in Kansas City would almost certainly have ended any hopes of squeezing into the playoffs.
Even now, they have a long way to go.
"It's the kind of win that can save the season," said Rivers, who threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns. "That doesn't mean it saved it, but it certainly kept it alive."
It was the second straight loss for the Chiefs (9-2), and a deflating one at that. They had just taken the lead with 1:22 remaining when Alex Smith hit Dwayne Bowe in tight coverage. It was the seventh lead change in a game that would feature one more.
"I mean, you'd like to take positives away from games, but right now, it wasn't enough," said Smith, who had 292 yards and three TDs of his own. "We didn't do enough to come out on top."
Not only that but the Chiefs also lost top pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to injuries. Hali has a sprained right ankle and Houston a sprained left elbow, and both are due for MRI exams Monday. Their status for next week's game against Denver is in question.