SAN DIEGO — After struggling for three quarters, the San Diego Chargers quickly turned boos into cheers and coasted in a rout of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Three Chargers touchdowns within a three-minute span of the fourth quarter sparked San Diego to 31-13 victory in an AFC West contest Thursday night before an announced crowd of 55,831 at Qualcomm Stadium.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Chargers, whose ineffectiveness on offense — they had managed just one touchdown in nine quarters before their outburst in the fourth — and resulted in them being lustily booed by their hometown fans as they left the field at intermission despite leading 10-3.
But all of that changed in the fourth with a Philip Rivers touchdown pass and a pair of scores produced by the San Diego defense.
Rivers’ 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Malcom Floyd, though, with 11:33 remaining provided the Chargers a 17-6 lead and a turning point. It came after the Chiefs had pulled to within 10-6 on a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Succop late in the third quarter.
About a minute after Rivers’ scoring pass, San Diego (4-4) increased the margin to 24-6 when linebacker Shaun Phillips pounced on a fumble by Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel in the end zone.
The Chargers scored again when linebacker Demorrio Williams, who produced a fumble in the first half, intercepted a Cassel pass and returned it 59 yards for a 31-6 lead with 8:33 remaining and eliminated any chance of a comeback by the Chiefs (1-7).
The win pulled San Diego to within a half game of the division-leading Denver Broncos, which visits the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The Chargers scored on their opening possession, marching 80 yards in seven plays, as quarterback Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates on a 14-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead with 10:24 left in the first quarter.
The Chiefs followed with a ball-control drive — it consumed eight minutes — on their first series, but linebacker Williams stripped wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for a fumble. Cornerback Quentin Jammer recovered it at the Chargers 22 with 2:18 left in the quarter.
The turnover initiated a 12-play, 71-yard drive for the Chargers and resulted in a 25-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 9:10 remaining in the half for a 10-0 lead.
The Chiefs got on the board late in the first half, when Succop connected on a 49-yard field goal with 2:51 left.
The Chargers missed a chance to increase the lead late in the half, driving to Chiefs’ 1 with less than 30 seconds remaining. But Rivers’ pass for tight end Dante Rosario was picked off in the end zone by safety Eric Berry with 21 seconds left, ending the threat.
After Matt Cassel took a knee to end the half, Charger fans lustily booed their club, which was playing at home for the first time since blowing a 24-point lead and losing a 35-24 decision to the Denver Broncos on Oct. 15.
NOTES: This is the 106th meeting since 1960 between the two clubs. San Diego leads the series 53-51-1. The Chargers also have won eight of the last 10 between and four in a row at Qualcomm. The Chargers earned a 37-20 win in the last meeting Sept. 30 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. … Charger inactives: wide receivers Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem; cornerback Chris Carr; safety Brandon Taylor; linebackers Larry English and Jonas Mouton; and tight end Ladarius Green. … Chiefs inactives: quarterback Brady Quinn; wide receiver Devon Wylie; cornerback Stanford Routt; running back Nate Eachus; linebacker Bryan Kehl; center Bryan Mattison; and defensive lineman Jerrell Powe.