KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The San Diego Chargers needed to merely to beat Kansas City in their regular-season finale on Sunday to slip into the playoffs for the second straight year.
That's why Mike McCoy was so surprised by their wholescale flop.
The Chargers' coach watched in bewilderment as Philip Rivers was sacked seven times and picked off twice, Donald Brown was stuffed on a key fourth down late in the game, and the Chargers' season ended with a lackluster 19-7 loss to the Chiefs.
"For everything that was at stake, for us to play the way we did, get behind early on, and we got some rhythm going and we couldn't make that one play to get it going and turn on the momentum — very disappointing," McCoy said. "We didn't play well."
The Chiefs played much better, though it ultimately didn't matter.
They needed Baltimore to lose to Cleveland and Houston to lose to Jacksonville, but both teams rallied in the second half for victories. That gave the Ravens the AFC's final playoff spot.
"We end up missing the playoffs," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "so while it's fresh in the players' minds, it's important that they feel how important every game is in this league. There's so much parity in the league and these games are so close."
The Chargers (9-7) will look back on their season finale as one of wasted opportunities.
Nick Novak missed a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth, a touchdown pass to Eddie Royal was overturned by a video review when the ball appeared to skip off the turf — San Diego went for it on fourth down and Rivers threw incomplete. Then with about 4 minutes left, Donald Brown was stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 20.
Rivers was intercepted for a second time in the closing seconds of the game.
He finished with 291 yards passing to go over 4,000 yards in a season for the sixth time in his career. Branden Oliver added 71 yards rushing and a touchdown.
"It's tough when it ends. You never plan on it," Rivers said. "We didn't play our best. But you've got to give them credit. They beat us twice this year, so they were the better team."
Meanwhile, Justin Houston had four sacks for the Chiefs (9-7) to break Derrick Thomas' Chiefs record with 22 on the season. Cairo Santos kicked four field goals, and Chase Daniel played well in place of injured quarterback Alex Smith, throwing for 157 yards without an interception.
The Chiefs' only touchdown came when wide receiver Dwayne Bowe fumbled inches shy of the goal line early in the second quarter. Tight end Travis Kelce recovered in the end zone, not only giving Kansas City a 10-0 lead, but keeping a dubious streak intact: No Chiefs wide receiver caught a TD pass all season, the first time in at least 50 years that has happened.
"I honestly didn't pay attention to that. I wanted to win," Houston said of his record. "I felt like everything was going to work out in our favor if we won, we'd be in the playoffs."
Kansas City started the season 7-3, but limped to the finish amid several injuries. The latest was to Smith, who lacerated his spleen in last week's loss to Pittsburgh.
Even if the Chiefs made the playoffs, he likely would have been out until the Super Bowl.
Injuries also crippled San Diego's postseason hopes.
After starting the game without running back Ryan Mathews, wide receiver Keenan Allen and center Chris Watt, the banged-up Chargers watched right tackle D.J. Fluker walked slowly to the locker room late in the first half. He joined safety Marcus Gilchrist (elbow), cornerback Shareece Wright (head injury) and wide receiver Eddie Royal, who got hurt late in the game.
The Chargers wound up losing three of their final four games.
"This is not a knock on anybody at all, but this is not the offense we expected to have at the end of training camp," Rivers said. "I know I have to play at a high level in these kind of games for us offensively to go. And it wasn't my best day."
Notes: Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles ran for 54 yards, going over 1,000 for the season. ... The Chiefs had seven sacks. ... Rivers fell to 34-9 in regular-season games played in December and January. ... Trevor Robinson became the fifth player to start at center for San Diego this season. ... The Chargers allowed 111 yards rushing, one week after giving up 355 vs San Francisco.
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