By DOUG TUCKER, AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—If it’s true that history is written by the winners, Kansas City’s horrible 2008 season should be well-chronicled.
Most rushing yards given up in a game? Just check the Tennessee Titans’ media guide.
Biggest lead blown? Look it up in the Tampa Bay record book.
The 332 yards Tennessee gained in a blowout win over the Chiefs on Oct. 19 was the most the Titans ever gained against anyone, and the most the Chiefs ever allowed.
When Tampa Bay came storming back from a 24-3 deficit on Sunday with the help of an array of physical and mental mistakes by the young Chiefs, it marked the biggest comeback in Buccaneers history.
It was also the biggest lead Kansas City ever lost. Tied 27-all at the end of regulation, Tampa Bay won the game 30-27 on a field goal in overtime.
Next up for the Chiefs is a trip to the West Coast, where the San Diego Chargers (3-5) ought to be well rested following their bye week. Quarterback Philip Rivers, leading the NFL with a passer rating of 107.8, will no doubt be eyeing Kansas City’s injury-weakened secondary.
Halfway through the season, the Chiefs (1-7) are on pace for their worst year ever. Until now, the fewest wins the Chiefs had in a 16-game, non-strike year was four. In 1977’s 14-game season, they were 2-12.
Yet, there still is hope. An entirely unexpected sense of encouragement seemed to pervade the locker room on Monday in spite of the spirit-withering defeat to Tampa Bay—and the fact running back Kolby Smith is going on injured reserve with a knee injury.
The offensive line, with right tackle Damion McIntosh adjusting to a new position and getting past nagging injuries, played its best game of the season against Tampa’s tough defense, springing rookie running back Jamaal Charles for 106 yards.
Plus, quarterback Tyler Thigpen did what most skeptics said he couldn’t. He played a second straight good game. His only interception was erased by a penalty, and Thigpen wound up hitting 14 of 25 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown. His 56-yard gainer to Mark Bradley was a laser shot, as impressive as any pass a Kansas City quarterback has thrown in a couple of years.
“He put it right on the money,” said Bradley. “He’s doing a good job of spreading the ball out in the spread offense that we’re running now. It’s working in our favor.”
Thigpen’s teammates are starting to believe in the second-year pro from Coastal Carolina.
“He showed it in practice last week and the week before,” said wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. “He said he wanted to be a leader on the offense and he’s doing a good job at it. In the huddle, telling guys to let him know if they see something. He’s just taken over the whole offense now in his second year, which is a good thing.”
Running back Larry Johnson, suspended for the week by the NFL for violating the player conduct policy, will not be in San Diego, missing his fourth straight game.
Smith, the second-year pro who had started the three previous games while Johnson served a team benching for violating franchise rules, was lost for the season with a knee injury early in the second half on Sunday.
That leaves Charles, a third-round pick out of Texas, plus Jackie Battle, who’s spent most of the year on the practice squad, and rookie kick returner Dantrell Savage as the only healthy running backs.
Also questionable is linebacker Derrick Johnson, who came out of the Tampa game with a sore hamstring. A hamstring problem also brought starting cornerback Brandon Flowers out in the second half. His backup, Maurice Leggett, was beaten by Antonio Bryant on the touchdown pass that led to the 27-27 tie in the final seconds.
“The trainers felt I’d hurt my team even more if I tried to play through it and let it get worse and worse and have it bother me through the whole season,” said Flowers. “So I had to come out of the game and other guys had to go in and step up.
“My plan is to go to San Diego and play the whole game. That’s why I’m here getting treatment. I think I should be fine.”