SAN DIEGO (AP) — Chargers fans will finally have something to cheer about when LaDainian Tomlinson’s No. 21 will be retired at halftime of Sunday’s game against Kansas City.
Too bad L.T. retired three years ago, because the free-falling Chargers desperately need help.
Yes, these are dismal times in San Diego. The Chargers have lost five straight games. Team chairman Dean Spanos has angered much of the fan base with his scorched-earth campaign to abandon San Diego and move to an industrial suburb of Los Angeles, if his fellow owners approve.
And here come local product Alex Smith and the Chiefs (4-5), who have won three straight following a five-game losing streak. The Chiefs are coming off a 29-13 dismantling of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and have won four of the last six against the Bolts.
The Chargers have only bad memories of their last game against the Chiefs. Needing simply a victory in the 2014 season finale to reach the playoffs, the Bolts collapsed instead, losing to Chiefs backup QB Chase Daniel as Philip Rivers was sacked seven times, four by Justin Houston.
So, with it looking like the Chargers will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, the only thing left to do is celebrate L.T.’s brilliant run with the Chargers.
“It was really an honor to hand him the football and throw it to him and pitch it to him those years he was here,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I always said I had one of the best views in the house on most of those runs, seeing some of those cuts he made.”
Here are some things to look for when the Chiefs visit the Chargers:
L.T! L.T.! L.T.!
Tomlinson was the face of the franchise for nine seasons, carrying the team and cementing his Hall of Fame credentials by winning the NFL’s MVP Award in 2006. The handful of Chargers who were around back then remember the game that season when Tomlinson broke the NFL single-season touchdown record at home and was carried off the field on the shoulders of his offensive linemen.
After spending two seasons with the New York Jets, Tomlinson retired in 2012 as the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 13,684 yards and the second-most prolific scorer with 145 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 17 TD passes and threw seven scoring passes.
He joins Dan Fouts (14), Lance Alworth (19) and Junior Seau (55) in having their numbers retired.
Mr. Smith comes
back to San Diego
Smith will definitely want to make the most of what could be his final visit to Qualcomm Stadium. He led Helix High to consecutive San Diego Section championships at the Q in his junior and senior years — Reggie Bush was a teammate — before going to Utah, which at the time was a rival of San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference.
Smith is on a nice roll. Dating to the third quarter of a Week 3 loss at Green Bay, he’s thrown 228 consecutive passes without an interception. Smith needs just six more without a pick to break the franchise record set by Steve DeBerg in 1990.
Running in opposite directions
Second-year pro Charcandrick West has filled in admirably for Jamaal Charles, who’s out for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in a loss to the Bears on Oct. 11. In four games since then, he’s gained 309 yards on 75 carries, with three touchdowns.
San Diego’s Melvin Gordon, meanwhile, is having a quiet rookie season. He’s yet to score his first NFL touchdown and have a 100-yard game. Part of the problem is San Diego’s ineffective offensive line, which can’t stay healthy. If left tackle King Dunlap and left guard Orlando Franklin return Sunday, maybe Gordon’s luck will change.
Rivers’ ribs might still be hurting from the pounding he took from the Chiefs last December.
And he might be in trouble again on Sunday. The Chiefs have 11 sacks and seven interceptions in their last two games. They roughed up Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos a week ago, getting five interceptions by five players, plus five sacks. During their last five games, the Chiefs are allowing an average of just 14 points.
San Diego, meanwhile, has gotten only 16 sacks from its lethargic rush.
Houston has 7 1/2 sacks. San Diego’s sack leaders are Jerry Attaochu and Melvin Ingram with four apiece.
Coach Mike McCoy, whose record in three seasons has dipped to 20-21, says of the Chargers: “We’ve got a salty bunch here, not very happy with our record. They’ve worked extremely hard and we haven’t come out on top for a number of weeks now.”
The beleaguered Bolts play AFC West foes five times in their last seven games: KC and Denver twice, and a Christmas Eve game at Oakland, which embarrassed the Chargers in San Diego on Oct. 25.
KANSAS CITY (4-5) at SAN DIEGO (2-7)
Today, 3 p.m., CBS
OPENING LINE — Chiefs by 2 ½
RECORD VS. SPREAD — Chiefs 4-5, Chargers 3-6
SERIES RECORD — Chargers lead 55-54-1
LAST MEETING — Chiefs beat Chargers 19-7, Dec. 28, 2014
LAST WEEK — Chiefs beat Broncos 29-13; Chargers had bye, lost to Bears 22-19 on Nov. 9
AP PRO32 RANKING — Chiefs No. 15, Chargers No. 29
CHIEFS OFFENSE — OVERALL (24), RUSH (10T), PASS (25).
CHIEFS DEFENSE — OVERALL (13), RUSH (8), PASS (15).
CHARGERS OFFENSE — OVERALL (4), RUSH (30), PASS (1).
CHARGERS DEFENSE — OVERALL (24), RUSH (27), PASS (17).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — Chiefs have won three straight following five-game losing streak to tie Oakland for second in AFC West, three games behind Denver. ... Chargers have lost five straight to drop to last in division. ... Against Denver, Chiefs had five interceptions by five players, and five sacks. ... In last five games Chiefs have held opponents to 14 points per. In last two games Chiefs have 11 sacks, seven interceptions. ... Chiefs swept Chargers last year, including 19-7 win in finale at KC behind backup QB Chase Daniel that knocked Chargers out of playoffs. Chiefs sacked Philip Rivers seven times, four by Justin Houston. ... KC has won four of last six vs. San Diego. ... Chiefs QB Alex Smith played at Helix High in La Mesa; was teammate of Reggie Bush. It’s another homecoming at Qualcomm Stadium for Smith, who led Helix to consecutive San Diego Section championships before going to Utah, which at the time was rival of San Diego State in Mountain West Conference. ... Smith needs six more passes and he breaks Chiefs franchise record for consecutive throws without INT held by Steve DeBerg. ... Chiefs RB Charcandrick West has stepped up after Jamaal Charles (knee) was lost for season, rushing for 309 yards, three TDs in last four games. ... Chargers will retire LaDainian Tomlinson’s No. 21, induct him into team Hall of Fame. Tomlinson starred with Chargers from 2001-09 before being released, playing two seasons with Jets. ... Tomlinson retired as league’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 13,684 yards, second-most prolific scorer with 145 rushing TDs. He caught 17 scoring passes, threw for seven TDs. ... L.T. joins Dan Fouts (14), Lance Alworth (19), Junior Seau (55) in having number retired. ... Chargers rookie RB Melvin Gordon still looking for first NFL TD, 100-yard game. ... Coming off bye, Chargers hope to get LT King Dunlap, LG Orlando Franklin back from injuries. ... ILB Manti Te’o has missed four games with ankle injury. ... WR Malcom Floyd hopes to play again this season after tearing labrum in left shoulder making diving attempt at catch in loss to Bears on Nov. 9. Regardless, Floyd still plans to retire after season. ... Chargers likely to miss playoffs for fifth time in six seasons. ... This could be third-to-last NFL game at Qualcomm Stadium; Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos wants to move team to Carson. NFL could make decision on L.A. relocation by January. ... Fantasy Tip: West could have big day against porous Chargers.