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 seven-yard touchdown return of Erik Kramer's fumble set the rugged defensive tone for Kansas City (5-2), which routed the Chargers, 34-0, today in a a one-sided showdown for first place in the AFC West.
It was the first regular season shutout since 1992 for the Chargers (4-3). They fell behind 20-0 after getting one first down and 28 total yards in a bleak first half.
"We looked like a bunch of goofs out there today," said quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who replaced Kramer in the first quarter after Kramer lost a fumble and threw an interception. "To be honest, I guess we're not very good."
The Chiefs have won three in a row since losing, 21-14, in San Diego on Oct. 3. They 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 minutes 10 seconds into the first quarter, but the Chiefs held a 10-0 lead thanks to Kramer's fumble and eighth interception.
"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 to signal that 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 Chris Penn ran him down.
"Three years ago, I would have scored," Manusky said. "I'm getting too old."
Kramer threw the ball directly to Cris Dishman early in the first quarter, leading to Pete Stoyanovich's 43-yard field goal.