Rookie kicker Cairo Santos nailed a 48-yard field goal with less than 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to help the Chiefs secure a 23-20 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Sunday’s victory snapped the Chiefs’ six-game losing streak at Qualcomm Stadium and the Chargers’ five-game winning streak.
The Chiefs (3-3) dominated time of possession, holding the ball 39 minutes compared to 21 minutes for the Chargers (5-2), a team that entered Week 7 ranked second in the league in possession average (34:34).
Kansas City had time-consuming drives of 9:31, 6:25 and 7:43, two of the three resulting in Santos field goals.
The Chiefs’ ability to control the clock was magnified in the third quarter when the Chargers were limited to only three offensive snaps.
“Sometimes the best defense against (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers is keeping him on the sidelines,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporter during his postgame media session. “And we were able to do that for the most part in that third quarter.”
Running back Jamaal Charles agreed.
“We’ve been doing that to every team we play and our identity is we keep the ball from the other team and eat up the clock,” Charles said. “If we can keep doing that to every team it’s possible to win any game. When we get the chance to keep the other team off of the field it gives us the advantage to win the game.”
Still, the Chiefs couldn’t fully capitalize on the time-consuming drives, settling on two field goals and scoring a touchdown on the other.
But Santos played a large role by connected on kicks from 28 and 40 yards, respectively, before his game-winning effort.
The 28-yard kick came after the Chiefs put together a 14-play, 9:31 drive, marking the team’s longest scoring drive of the season from a clock perspective.
Ultimately, the Chiefs needed Santos a final time with the score tied at 20-20 and time winding down in regulation.
The Chargers called a timeout in an effort to freeze Santos, but the move proved futile as his kick worked inside the right upright to give the Chiefs the victory.
“I felt like he was going to make it,” Reid said of Santos’ game-winning kick. “He’s had a great week of practice kicking this week. He’s made the opportunities he’s had here over the last couple of games. He was due for an opportunity like this. He stepped up and did a heck of a job.”
Sunday’s final field goal was redemption for Santos, who had a shaky start to the season.
The Chiefs, however, never wavered when it came to the rookie kicker, who is now 8-of-10 on field goal attempts on the season.
Santos went 3-of-3 on field goal attempts against the Chargers.
“I’m so proud of him for the job that he did at the end of the game,” Reid said. “For a rookie, especially to step up and make a (48) yard field goal with the game right on his back, that’s a tribute to him.”
ENDING THE SKID
The Chiefs put the six-game losing streak at Qualcomm Stadium in the books, and the meaning of the achievement isn’t lost on the players.
“This is my first time winning here and that was a big win against a good team,” running back Jamaal Charles told reporters after the game. “They have a great defense, a great quarterback on the other side and this was an amazing game we pulled off today.”
Charles entered the league in 2008, a year after the Chiefs’ last win at Qualcomm Stadium.
But Dwayne Bowe was a rookie on the 2007 team the last time the Chiefs defeated the Chargers on the road.
“It was big,” Bowe told reporters about the Chiefs’ ability to break the losing streak. “It was enormous. I’m speechless.”
Bowe said he and his teammates understood the importance of Sunday’s game, and the Chiefs responded.
“We haven’t won here in six consecutive tries and we told ourselves every break that this was a must-win,” he said. “Guys played their tails off.”
POST-BYE WEEK SUCCESS
Chiefs coach Andy Reid is now 14-2 the game after the bye week on his career, giving him the most wins of any NFL coach after a bye.
Of course, Reid’s last two times out after a bye weren’t successful, as he entered Week 7 on a two-game losing streak.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of magic the past two years,” Reid told reporters during his postgame media session. “We were “O-for” the last couple years.”
Still, it’s difficult to ignore Reid’s achievements when it comes to preparing his team during and after the break.
And the humble Reid gave credit to those around him.
“I don’t think there’s a secret to it,” Reid said. “When we have good players and good coaches, good things happen. I’ve been lucky enough to be in those situations.”
Reid said the only injury of note from Sunday’s game was wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who left the game before halftime with a hamstring injury.
“We’ll see how he does tomorrow (Monday),” Reid said.
Hemingway battled a hamstring injury during training camp that caused him to miss a large portion of practices.
The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8 to host the St. Louis Rams (2-4) on Sunday, Oct. 26.
The game is set for a 12 p.m. CT and airs on FOX Sports.