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Chargers Are on Top of AFC West

Associated Press
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page D12



KANSAS CITY, Mo., Nov. 28 -- Strip away the great plays and the wild action, and San Diego's 34-31 victory over Kansas City is reduced to a simple fact: big plays.

Chargers place kicker Nate Kaeding knows his field goal is good for a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. (Dave Kaup -- Reuters)

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The revitalized Chargers (8-3) showed why they keep winning and the distraught Chiefs (3-8) showed why they continue to lose. San Diego made the big plays Sunday, got expert quarterbacking from Drew Brees and let tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson carry most of the load.

The Chiefs gave up big plays, committed costly penalties and turned over the ball at the worst possible time.

"Everybody got their money's worth today," said San Diego Coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose Chargers were a league-worst 4-12 last year and are now in first place in the AFC West following Denver's 25-24 loss to Oakland. "It was quite an exciting game."

Nate Kaeding, set up by Donnie Edwards's interception of Trent Green's pass, made up for two missed field goals with a tiebreaking 43-yarder with 2 minutes 24 seconds left.

A few minutes earlier, Brees's 11-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates tied it 31 and capped a 71-yard drive during which the Chargers overcome four penalties, including one that nullified Gates's 51-yard gain. Making it possible was Kassim Osgood's 65-yard catch and run on second and 22 from the Chargers 19.

"Kassim Osgood made what, in my mind, is as fine a play as I've seen in my entire career in football," Schottenheimer said.

Even more memorable for Chiefs fans was the Dante Hall show. The little return specialist, who took the NFL by storm last year when he returned five kicks for touchdowns, sped 77 yards with the second-half kickoff and was just a few steps from the end zone when the ball inexplicably popped out of his hands.

Jerrell Pippens recovered for San Diego on the 5, and a few minutes later Kaeding's 25-yarder tied it at 17.

But in the fourth quarter, after Brees's 18-yard touchdown pass to Gates gave the Chargers a 24-23 lead, Hall took the ensuing kickoff, burst up and the middle and fled 96 yards to the end zone, tightly holding onto the ball all the way.

"The guys did a heck of a job blocking," Hall said. "There were two or three ways I could have gone."

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