San Diego defense reigns on Kansas City, 17-0 Chargers win wet one, will meet Dolphins

January 03, 1993|By Jay Posner | Jay Posner,Contributing Writer

SAN DIEGO -- About the only thing more rare in this city than rain is an appearance by the Chargers in the NFL playoffs.

Both happened yesterday.

But, by the end of the wet afternoon, only the rain was gone.

The Chargers advanced to the second round of the AFC playoffs by whipping the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-0, before 58,278 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

San Diego (12-5), which ended a six-game losing streak against Kansas City (10-7), will play at 4 p.m. next Sunday against Miami (11-5) at Joe Robbie Stadium.

It started raining about four hours before kickoff yesterday, but the locals weren't about to miss the Chargers' first postseason appearance in 10 years and their first home playoff game in 12 years. Just as it did that day, it began raining in the morning. Unlike 1981, however, the rain continued to fall most of the day.

Longtime observers said it was the first sustained rain during a Chargers home game since 1963, and the result, not surprisingly, was a defensive struggle.

In the days of San Diego's high-flying Air Coryell offense, that might have been trouble. But this is a different Chargers team, one that ranked fourth in the NFL in defense.

These Chargers thought nothing of slugging their way through a scoreless first half, even with the offense wasting two solid scoring opportunities. San Diego lost a fumble at the Kansas City 13 on the first drive of the game and then a 52-yard field goal attempt by John Carney just before halftime hit the crossbar and bounced off.

"We played extremely well in the first half," linebacker Gary Plummer said of the defense, "and the offense knew it was their turn to step it up in the second half."

The biggest steps were taken by running back Marion Butts, who broke free for a 54-yard touchdown run with 5:53 left in the third quarter. Butts faked out Charles Mincy about 10 yards into his run, then outran Albert Lewis to the end zone

"The offensive line made my job a lot easier," said Butts, who finished with 119 yards on 15 carries. "The only thing I had to do was run."

The San Diego defense took care of the rest. Defensive end Leslie O'Neal's first interception since 1986 set up a 34-yard field goal by Carney about two minutes after Butts' score, and linebacker/fullback Steve Hendrickson's 5-yard touchdown run -- on his first carry of the season -- iced the victory with 10:03 remaining.

San Diego limited Kansas City to 251 total yards, including just 61 on the ground. O'Neal, Burt Grossman and Shawn Lee all had two sacks as San Diego, which finished with seven sacks, blanked Kansas City for the first time ever.

"There's nothing profound to be said," said rookie Chargers coach Bobby Ross, the former Maryland head coach. "I think we played well. It was a pretty complete game."

Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries, a former Redskin, played all but garbage time despite suffering a dislocated shoulder in last week's regular-season finale. Humphries was sacked four times in the first half, five in the game, and was hit on numerous other occasions. But he played through the pain and wound up 14-of-23 for 199 yards and no interceptions.

"Stan Humphries came through the game well and did an amazing job considering that his shoulder was dislocated last week," Ross said. "For him to come in here and do that kind of job under that kind of pressure is a tremendous thing."

Next up, Miami.

"The Chargers are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now, and have come a long way from their 0-4 start," Miami coach Don Shula said. "They are a young team but they've shown a lot of maturity in rebounding from the slow start and then winning a tough playoff game against the Chiefs."

The matchup will pit Shula against his former defensive coordinator, Bill Arnsparger, who returned to the NFL after a nine-year absence this season as the Chargers' defensive coordinator.

San Diego ranked second in the AFC in points and yards allowed.

"Bill Arnsparger has done a great job with their defense this year, and they've played as well as anyone in the AFC after their 0-4 start," Miami quarterback Dan Marino said.

The teams last met in December 1991, when the Chargers scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 38-30 victory. That cost Miami a playoff berth.

"We know how tough a team they can be from our game against them late last year," Marino said.

* Running back Rod Bernstine suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter. He is day-to-day.

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