Work in Sports
Chargers fizzle as Chiefs gallop to 34-0 rout
Posted: Sunday October 31, 1999 07:05 PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Getting penalized for delay of game before the game even started should have warned the San Diego Chargers this would not be their day.
Just minutes into the first quarter, safety Reggie Tongue's 7-yard touchdown return of Erik Kramer's fumble set the rugged defensive tone for Kansas City (5-2), which routed the Chargers 34-0 Sunday in a showdown for first place in the AFC West.
It was the first regular-season shutout since 1992 for the Chargers (4-3), who fell behind 20-0 after getting just one first down and 28 total yards in the a bleak first half.
"We looked like a bunch of goofs out there today," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who replaced the ineffective Kramer in the first quarter after Kramer had lost a fumble and thrown an interception. "To be honest, I guess we're not very good."
The Chiefs, who have won three in a row since losing 21-14 in San Diego on Oct. 3, are a half-game ahead of Seattle (4-2) pending the Seahawks' game Monday night.
"This is the best the defense has played in the four years I've been here," linebacker Donnie Edwards said. "This feels really good."
Kansas City had minus-9 yards and a fumble 7:10 into the first quarter, but the Chiefs held a 10-0 lead thanks to Kramer's fumble and eighth interception in six quarters.
"There are a lot of problems and issues that have to be decided on Monday," San Diego linebacker Junior Seau said.
The first half started on an embarrassing note for the Chargers and ended in near-disaster.
They were assessed a delay-of-game penalty when they failed to get the kickoff away within 25 seconds of the referee's blowing his whistle signaling the game ready to start.
In the final seconds of the second quarter, Michael Dumas blocked a Kansas City punt near the Chiefs goal line. But the ball squirted directly into the arms of Chiefs linebacker Greg Manusky, who lumbered 84 yards to the 7 before wide receiver Chris Penn ran him down.
"Three years ago, I would have scored," Manusky said. "I'm getting too old."
Kramer, who came into the game with eight interceptions and no touchdowns in his three previous starts, threw the ball directly to Cris Dishman early in the first quarter, leading to Pete Stoyanovich's 43-yard field goal.
Three minutes later, Tongue caught Kramer on a blitz, knocked the ball out of his hands, scooped it up and dashed 7 yards into the end zone.
"It was completely my fault. I was brainwashed thinking it was a screen the other way," Kramer said. "It was a complete mental breakdown on my part. For two successive weeks, I've managed to start us off in a horrible position. I've just got to regroup and get my game back together."
Elvis Grbac, who threw four interceptions in San Diego on Oct. 3, was 11-for-15 for 194 yards. He threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn in the second quarter and connected with Derrick Alexander on an 81-yard touchdown play in the third.
Alexander, who had an 86-yard touchdown catch in the season opener at Chicago, was about 15 yards behind backup cornerback Jimmy Spencer when he caught the pass on the 45.
"When you're that wide open, you're thinking, 'Come on ball, hurry ball, get down before that guy catches me,' " Alexander said.
A few minutes later, James Hasty batted down Harbaugh's pass, and Derrick Thomas made the first interception of his 11-year career, returning the ball 20 yards and setting up a 7-yard touchdown run by Donnell Bennett that made it 34-0 with 2:58 left in the third.
Stoyanovich hit a 39-yarder early in the second quarter for a 13-0 lead.
The Chargers, clobbered 31-3 by Green Bay last week, were within inches of averting the shutout with a fourth-and-goal in the fourth, but Harbaugh fumbled the snap.
Rison was arrested for disturbing the peace after a fight in a restaurant parking lot, and Johnson was arrested after police contended he grabbed the breast of an undercover officer working a prostitution decoy operation.
"It's no big deal because we feel like our guys didn't do anything wrong," Alexander said. "We'll find out what the situation is later on. But when guys aren't here, we've still got to play."
Notes: BrandsMart, a local electronics store, had been running a promotion all week promising that all sales exceeding $399 would be free if the Chiefs shut out the Chargers. "I hope everyone enjoys their free big-screen TV on us," Thomas said. ... Chiefs offensive guard Will Shields assisted in the national anthem. ... Rookie Larry Parker returned kicks for the first time in place of the injured Tamarick Vanover. ... Chiefs cornerback Cris Dishman made his 39th career interception, tying him for seventh among active players with Tim McDonald of the 49ers. ... San Diego challenged the touchdown the Chiefs scored on Kramer's fumble, contending Kramer's arm was moving forward. ... Pete Stoyanovich moved into third place on the Chiefs career scoring list with 363 points.