CARSON, Calif.— The streak continues.
Thanks to a pick-happy defense — one that also found a way to consistently get off the field on third down, despite a largely dormant pass rush — and a big run by rookie star Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs got their seventh straight victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, winning 24-10 at the StubHub Center on Sunday.
After a slow start last week against the Eagles, the Chiefs (3-0) opened this one with a bang.
On just the third play from scrimmage, cornerback Terrance Mitchell picked off a Philip Rivers pass to set up the Chiefs' first score, a 30-yard pass from quarterback Alex Smith to receiver Tyreek Hill that put them ahead 7-0.
Undeterred by that slow start, Rivers — a gunslinger to his core — kept chucking. His third-and-8 pass to Antonio Gates was soon swiped by cornerback Marcus Peters, who was clearly motivated by Chargers receiver Keenan Allen's yapping and returned it 38 yards.
That set up the Chiefs' next score, a 9-yard touchdown pass from Smith to receiver Albert Wilson — via the shovel pass, which has seemingly become one of coach Andy Reid's new favorite plays — that put the Chiefs ahead 14-0 midway through the first.
By that point, the 25,000-seat StubHub Center was rocking with a pro-Chiefs vibe. But the Chargers battled back, as Rivers connected on a 44-yard jump ball to 5-foot-10 receiver Travis Benjamin, a third-down gamble that led to their first score, an 11-yard run by running back Melvin Gordon III.
Rivers' gunslinger ways may have saved the Chargers on that drive, but they'd soon come back to bite Los Angeles. After a Chiefs punt, he gunned another throw that was picked by Mitchell, giving the fourth-year pro the first multi-interception game of his career.
This led to a Chiefs field goal, one that was assisted by a roughing-the-kicker penalty that negated a 51-yard miss. The Chargers closed the gap with a field goal before halftime, however, slicing the Chiefs' lead to 17-10 to bring a fun first half to a close.
The pace of the game slowed down from that point on, as both defenses seemed to settle into a groove.
While the Chargers harassed Smith, sacking him five times throughout the contest, the Chiefs defense failed to match that kind of rush (only one sack) but consistently made enough plays to get off the field on third down. This short-circuited several promising drives by Los Angeles, including two in Chiefs territory, just beyond midfield.
The game continued that way until late in the fourth quarter, when the Chargers' potentially game-tying drive was snuffed out by a ferocious third-down sack by Justin Houston.
This gave the ball back to the largely-dormant Chiefs' offense, which finally came to life thanks to Hunt, the hard-charging, speedy rookie who took a handoff from his 31, broke into the open and sped away for a 69-yard touchdown that upped his yardage total on the day to 172 yards on only 17 carries.
The score — which put the Chiefs ahead by 14 with two minutes left — marked the third straight game Hunt has run for a touchdown of at least 50 yards. It also effectively put away the Chargers, who lost for the seventh straight time to the Chiefs (0-3), who will now have to wait until Dec. 16 for their next crack at snapping the Chiefs' streak.