CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The Chiefs own the Chargers, whether they play in Kansas City, Los Angeles or San Diego.
Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes in the first 9½ minutes against what used to be his hometown team, Terrance Mitchell had two interceptions and rookie Kareem Hunt scored on a 69-yard run to seal the Chiefs’ 24-10 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
The Chiefs (3-0) beat the Chargers for the seventh straight time and have won 12 straight AFC West games.
Los Angeles’ Philip Rivers threw three interceptions and the Chargers fell to 0-3 in their first season playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center after moving from San Diego.
“It was weird not playing the Chargers in San Diego,” said Smith, who played high school, college and NFL games at what used to be called Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
“I grew up with the San Diego Super Chargers, but it was cool to play here. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another opportunity to play in a venue this small where it is intimate.”
A new locale hasn’t changed the Chargers’ fortunes. They’ve lost 26 of their past 35 games dating to the start of the 2015 season, and have lost 14 of their past 15 in the division.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Chargers rookie head coach Anthony Lynn said. “You might say we’re the same ol’ Chargers, and right now we are. So we’ve got to go back to work, and we’ve got to get better.”
After a quick start, the Chiefs held on through a defensive struggle in the second half. They got two huge plays in the closing minutes: Justin Houston’s sack of Rivers and then Hunt’s sensational run when he cut back against the flow and raced 69 yards down the left sideline with 1:49 left. The rookie finished with 172 yards on 17 carries.
The game couldn’t have started more differently for Smith and Rivers.
Rivers was intercepted by Mitchell on the game’s third play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Smith hit Tyreek Hill on a 30-yard touchdown pass.
Rivers moved the Chargers into Chiefs territory before Marcus Peters intercepted a pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates and returned it 38 yards to the Los Angeles 34. Four plays later, Smith threw a shovel pass to Albert Wilson for a 14-0 lead.
The Chargers got it together and drove for Melvin Gordon’s 11-yard scoring scamper to cut it to 14-7. Rivers floated a 44-yarder to Travis Benjamin for the drive’s big gain.
After the Chargers forced a three-and-out, Rivers threw his third interception, when Mitchell leaped in front of Tyrell Williams for the pickoff.
The Chargers’ defense began playing better. The Chiefs moved to the Los Angeles 25 before Smith was sacked on consecutive plays, first by Melvin Ingram and then by Joey Bosa and Corey Liuget. Cairos Santos missed a 51-yard field goal, but Rayshawn Jenkins was whistled for roughing the kicker, giving the Chiefs the ball on the 18. The drive fizzled and Santos kicked a 34-yarder to make it 17-7.
Chargers rookie Younghoe Koo kicked a 29-yard field goal as the clock expired to cut the lead to 17-10 at halftime.
HUNT’S BIG RUN
Coach Andy Reid simply wanted the rookie to get a first down on first-and-10 from the 31. Instead, he took it to the house.
“He’s a young guy and it’s a tough thing to do. I told him we only need a first down but when you get out there and see the end zone in front of you it’s tough to stop,” Reid said. “He came over to me and said he should have gone down. I don’t want to ruin a good thing for him. He’s young.”
Hunt has six touchdowns, four rushing and two receiving, in his first three games, tied with Billy Sims (1980 Detroit Lions) and Dutch Sternaman (1920 Decatur Staleys) for the most touchdowns by a player in his first three games.
RIVERS’ AIR WOES
It was the ninth time Rivers threw three interceptions. He led the NFL in pickoffs twice in the past three seasons, including last year when he had a career-high 21. Peters almost had another interception in the third quarter but the ball bounced off his hands. Daniel Sorensen appeared to come up with a deflected pass in the fourth quarter, but video review showed it touched the ground first.
“It was a rough day,” Rivers said. “All three were throws, poor decisions. I just never got in any kind of groove the whole day. You hate to be the guy that let’s down the group.”
With widespread rebuke around the league toward President Donald Trump for his obscene criticism of the kneeling by players during the national anthem in protest of social injustice, five Chargers either knelt or sat during the national anthem. Many of their teammates linked arms and stood, including team chairman Dean Spanos. About 10 Chiefs sat.
Chiefs: Return home to host the Washington Redskins a week from Monday night.
Chargers: Host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.
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