The Chiefs are a mere two games into the John Mackovic era, but Howard Cosell has told the country Kansas City's first-year coach is the man to lead the Chiefs to the National Football League's Promised Land.

"I think this young man has just what the Chiefs need," Cosell said about Mackovic several times during the ABC-TV broadcast of the Monday night game with the San Diego Chargers. "It's a whole new ball game here in Kansas City."

For the uninitiated, that may be telling it like it is, or it may simply be more repetition of the "Whole New Ball Game" PR slogan the Chiefs have been slinging around with such familiarity.

The Chiefs' offensive performance against San Diego Monday night, however, has become all too familiar in Mackovic's short tenure as head coach.

The Chiefs threw the ball, at times quite effectively, and Mackovic found great success in showing his penchant for gambling several times.

But the Chiefs still don't have a running game, and it is killing their offense.

Add a defense that couldn't stop the Chargers' offense when it had to, and the Chiefs will carry a 1-1 record into Washington's RFK Stadium Sunday after a 17-14 loss to San Diego in Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs rushed 18 times for 45 yards, a 2.5-yard average. They reached Chargers territory only three times, scoring two touchdowns and punting once, and what little the Chiefs were able to do against a San Diego defense that was supposedly just this side of fat and flabby was via the pass.

With the ball at their three-yard line after a great goal-line stand, Mackovic called for a pass instead of the normal run in that situation on first down. The 20-yard completion from quarterback Bill Kenney to wide receiver Carlos Carson started the Chiefs' first touchdown drive, which ended with a 45-yard pass for a touchdown from Kenney to Anthony Hancock.

With a first down at the San Diego 48 in the fourth quarter, and trailing by three points, Mackovic pulled another razzle-dazzle play from his bag, as Carson, getting the ball on a lateral from Kenny, threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Henry Marshall.

But that wasn't enough as the Chiefs didn't have a running game to gamble on when they faced several more opportunities.

Late in the third quarter, with a fourth and one at the San Diego 49, Mackovic chose to punt instead of going for the first down. The Chargers held the ball for the next 7 minutes 52 seconds.

With 1:06 left, behind by a field goal, and on fourth and one, the Chiefs couldn't get the first down.

Billy Jackson was the Chiefs' leading rusher, running 10 times for 20 yards. Jewerl Thomas had seven carries for 19 yards. The longest running play of the game for the Chiefs was eight yards.

"We have to run the ball better," Mackovic said.

Mackovic's play selection was highlighted by the two gambles, especially the long lateral Kenney threw to Carson, who then passed to Marshall over a startled defender, Danny Walters.

The touchdown, with 3:07 left, gave the Chiefs a 14-10 lead. But 76 seconds later San Diego scored and won the game.

"Perhaps we scored too early," Mackovic said. "Had we driven and scored with a minute to play, it might have been a little different."

Kenney, who was 22 for 30 and 188 yards, said: "Right after that play, I gathered our offense together, and I said, 'Hey, be ready. San Diego can score very quickly. Don't get too hyped up right now, we might have to go back on the field and score more points.' "

The Chargers' quick touchdown actually put the Chiefs in that position. But when they had that fourth-and-one chance at their own 29-yard line, Thomas got nothing, hitting the left side of the line as rookie linebacker Mike Green shot through and stopped him.

"The fact we were stopped right there wasn't very encouraging," Mackovic said. "We have to make that play. It isn't anything other than if you are going to be a good team, you have to make it on fourth down and one.

"It doesn't matter what they do, you just line up and make the first down."