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Chiefs play keep-away in victory over Rivers, Chargers

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Alex Smith led a game-winning field-goal drive to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a 23-20 upset victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. The Chiefs borrowed the Chargers' blueprint, using a "death by a thousand paper cuts" offense to control the tempo and keep Philip Rivers' high-scoring offense on the sidelines. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs owned a 3-to-1 edge in time of possession -- and were still trailing by a point. Smith outplayed Rivers in the all-important final frame, taking the lead with an early-fourth quarter touchdown and breaking a tie in the two-minute drill.

2. After a record-setting five consecutive games with a passer rating of at least 120.0, Rivers slipped to 83.4 on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and DeMarco Murray have made up ground in the admittedly premature MVP discussion.

3. With another sack on Sunday, Justin Houston is now tied for the NFL lead with seven. Over the past two years, the two-time Pro Bowl selection has averaged over a sack per game. Although far from a household name, he's one of the league's premier outside linebackers.

4. With a spectacular 16-yard touchdown that ended in a mid-air collision with cornerback Brandon Flowers, Jamaal Charles passed Priest Holmes (6,070 yards) as the Chiefs' career rushing leader. Still seeking his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, Charles had a season-high in carries by the end of the third quarter.

5. Julius Thomas is the only player with more receiving touchdowns than 34-year-old Antonio Gates, who closed out the first half with a back-shoulder, toe-tapping sideline catch and a tipped-ball touchdown. Gates is enjoying an Indian summer Pro Bowl season.

6. Smith got little help from his wide receivers on Sunday. Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway each had killer drops in key third-down situations. A.J. Jenkins took points off the board by carelessly stepping out of bounds on a play that could have gone for a long touchdown. It's an area Kansas City will have to upgrade in 2015.

7. The Chiefs are back to .500 and have been in every game save for the Week 1 loss to the Titans. They will be favored at Arrowhead Stadium against the 2-4 Rams and 1-6 Jets over the next two weeks. It's not hyperbole to bill the win over the Chargers as a season-saver.

8. The Chargers have a chance to reclaim first place at Denver on Thursday.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 7 game, and breaks down Peyton Manning's record-breaking night. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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