SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Chargers have gone from being on life support to having a little better outlook on surviving the regular season.
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Malcom Floyd and the Chargers remained alive in the AFC West race with a 31-0 win Sunday over the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, who went nowhere without quarterback Matt Cassel.
The four-time defending division champion Chargers (7-6) pulled within one game of the Chiefs (8-5). Cassel didn’t travel after having an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. His backup, Brodie Croyle, completed 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards and was sacked four times in his first start since the 2009 opener.
Rivers was 18 of 24 for 226 yards and the Chargers outgained the Chiefs 426 yards to 67. Kansas City had only five first downs.
It was San Diego’s first regular-season shutout against the Chiefs. The teams began play in 1960 as original members of the AFL. The Chargers also shut out the Chiefs 17-0 in a wild-card playoff game after the 1992 season.
The Chargers ran for 207 yards a week after being held to 21 in a 28-13 loss to Oakland.
Darren Sproles bounced back from a concussion to catch 5 passes for 51 yards and run six times for 53 yards. Fullback Mike Tolbert gained 66 yards on 16 carries and scored once, and rookie Ryan Mathews had 65 yards on 16 carries and a score.
The Chargers are above .500 for only the second time this season. It was their first shutout since winning 27-0 at Oakland on Sept. 11, 2006.
The Chiefs were shut out for the first time since a 34-0 loss at Carolina on Oct. 5, 2008. They had only 16 yards and one first down in the second half. Croyle dropped to 0-10 as an NFL starter.
After getting pounded by the Raiders last Sunday, the Chargers were handed two gifts. The first was hearing that Cassel had undergone an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday and that they’d likely be facing Croyle.
The second was Oakland’s loss at Jacksonville earlier Sunday, which dropped the Raiders to 6-7.
The Chiefs didn’t put up a fight.
Rivers led the Chargers to a 21-0 halftime lead. He threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Floyd on San Diego’s first drive and hit him again with a 9-yard TD pass with 40 seconds before halftime. In between, Tolbert ran 8 yards untouched for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, were outgained 256 yards to 51 yards in the first half and had only four first downs compared to San Diego’s 17.
Rivers was intercepted and lost a fumble on consecutive drives in the third quarter.
Nate Kaeding kicked a 48-yard field goal Mathews scored on a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter.
It was the Chiefs who started the Chargers out on what’s been a mediocre season by beating San Diego 21-14 on Sept. 13. Rookie Dexter McCluster returned a punt a team-record 94 yards for a touchdown, the first of many special teams blunders by the Bolts.