Chargers 28, Chiefs 20

Drew Brees and Antonio Gates played pitch and catch against a hapless Kansas City defense, and even LaDainian Tomlinson got a piece of the action.

Brees threw three touchdown passes to Gates and finished with 324 yards passing as the San Diego Chargers beat the Chiefs, 28-20, on Sunday. Tomlinson, slowed again on the ground, threw his third touchdown pass of the season, a 17-yarder to Eric Parker.

The defending AFC West champion Chargers (4-4) called this a must-win game and got big performances from Brees, Gates and the defense. Although injuries forced starting linebackers Steve Foley and Randall Godfrey to sit out, the Chargers frustrated the Chiefs (4-3) most of the afternoon and sacked Trent Green four times.

Brees completed 25 of 43 passes, with touchdown throws of 19, 20 and 35 yards to Gates. He also was intercepted once.

Gates put the game out of reach when he caught a short pass at the Kansas City 32, bulled through strong safety Sammy Knight and ran into the end zone for a 28-13 lead with 9 minutes 10 seconds left.

"He is very powerful," Brees said. "You can't really tackle him with one guy. You see him break tackles all the time, like he did on the last touchdown. Obviously his ability to catch the football is special."

Gates had 10 catches for 145 yards, both career highs, and the three touchdown catches tied his career best. Tomlinson gained 69 yards on 17 carries a week after being held to a career-low seven yards in a loss at Philadelphia.

Green, whose father died late last week, was 31 of 43 for 347 yards. Kansas City's Priest Holmes was shaken up midway through the third quarter and didn't return.

San Diego rookie outside linebacker Shawne Merriman (Maryland) sacked Green twice and forced the quarterback to fumble at the San Diego 22 late in the third quarter, with Shaun Phillips recovering. Phillips started for Foley.

Gates caught a 19-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead, then burned linebacker Kawika Mitchell for a 20-yard scoring catch with 27 seconds left before halftime for a 21-3 lead.

Kansas City's Lawrence Tynes kicked a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter. Tony Gonzalez caught a 16-yard pass from Green midway through the third quarter to pull the Chiefs to 21-10.

Asked if he's the NFL's best tight end, Gates deferred to Gonzalez.

"Tony has definitely set a high standard at tight end," Gates said. "He's done it year in and year out. This is just my third year and I'm upcoming. He's been to six Pro Bowls. I have to get to six Pro Bowls to say that."

Chargers wide receiver Eric Parker hauls in a 17-yard touchdown pass from running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the second quarter against the Chiefs.