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Tribal Warfare
09-26-2011, 06:34 AM
Defense shores up the holes against Chargers (http://www.kansascity.com/2011/09/25/3166760/defense-shores-up-the-holes-against.html)
By KENT BABB
The Kansas City Star

SAN DIEGO | Nose tackle Kelly Gregg ran toward the Chiefs sideline with his arms lifted. Several of his defensive teammates slapped hands and celebrated.

Kansas City stopped Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers on a fourth-and-1 sneak from the Chiefs’ 34-yard line, giving themselves an opportunity to tie or win on their final possession. Quarterback Matt Cassel threw an interception, but regardless, defenders said after the 20-17 loss that they believed the defense took a step forward Sunday.

“We knew what they were going to do right there,” defensive end Tyson Jackson said. “… We knew we did a pretty good job out there, held them in the backfield and gave our offense a chance.”

After a pair of season-opening losses in which the Chiefs were outscored 89-10, Sunday’s 20-point allowance seemed meager — and at least manageable. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali had his second sack, and end Wallace Gilberry stripped the ball from Rivers. Inside linebacker Derrick Johnson had a chance to snuff what became a San Diego scoring drive when a Rivers pass hit Johnson in the hands, but he was unable to hold on. Cornerback Brandon Flowers held onto his pick, returning it 50 yards in the process.

Regardless, the Chiefs for the first time this season made several big plays, getting out of their own way and acting as a help instead of a liability.

“They responded right down there to the end, where we needed a stop, and they got a stop,” coach Todd Haley said.

Haley said it helped that the offense avoided the turnovers that pinned Kansas City’s defense deep in its own territory. Defensive end Glenn Dorsey said his team communicated better and seemed better prepared to take on the Chargers, one of the NFL’s most explosive teams.

“I just like the way everybody’s fighting in this room, man,” said Dorsey, who had four combined tackles and a tackle for loss. “It’s easy to be like, ‘Oh, well, the season ain’t going good.’ That ain’t what this is in the room. I’m encouraged.”

Dorsey added that Sunday could eventually be seen as a turning point for the Chiefs’ defense. He said players have to repeat what worked and continue improving on what didn’t.

“It’s a hard loss. It hurts,” he said. “But I think everybody in this room is encouraged by the way we keep playing. It’s going to turn around. We’ve just got to keep working.”