KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Up and down the sideline, the Kansas City Chiefs were telling each other the game wasn’t over.
Didn’t matter that Philip Rivers was under center with less than a minute left, and that Nick Novak was poised to kick the winning field goal for San Diego.
The Chiefs have had their backs against the wall enough this season. They certainly weren’t going to just quit.
With first down at the Kansas City 15, Rivers called for the snap – and the ball never got into his hands. It squirted loose, bounced under a scrum, and finally emerged in the hands of Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker, who was running to the sideline in joy.
The game headed for overtime, and Ryan Succop eventually knocked through a 30-yard field goal to give the Chiefs a dramatic 23-20 victory over the Chargers on Monday night.
“Our guys were saying, ‘It ain’t over ‘till it’s over. Keep playing, and digging,’ ” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. “You never know what will happen.”
Kansas City (4-3) became the first team in NFL history to lose its first three games and share at least part of a division lead after four more. The Chiefs are also the first team since the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000 to win four straight games after losing their first three.
Rivers could have prevented it.
“I haven’t had one in years,” Rivers said of the fumbled snap. “It’s unfortunate. I dropped it. This one is rough. You blow it on a play that never should have happened.”
Kansas City had its own chance to win in regulation, but Matt Cassel overthrew his wide receiver in Chargers territory and Eric Weddle’s second interception sent the game to overtime.
San Diego won the toss but failed to pick up a first down, and Cassel calmly led Kansas City down field. Succop’s field goal with 5:16 remaining moved the Chiefs into a tie with San Diego (4-3) and the idle Oakland Raiders (4-3) in the division.
“We were saying, ‘Don’t quit,’ ” Studebaker said. “You never quit, even if it looks ugly. If you quit every time something looks ugly, you miss an opportunity to do something special.”
Boy, was this one ever ugly.
Rivers wound up throwing for 369 yards, but he also had two interceptions and one big fumble.
The teams combined for eight turnovers, matching the most in an NFL game this season. The Chargers were called for 12 penalties worth 105 yards in a gruesome game on Halloween night.