CARSON >> On the north sideline, Kansas City’s’ Marcus Peters looked at the ground and held up a fist, with teammate Roy Miller holding up Peters’ arm.
On the south sideline, five Chargers sat on a metal bench when the anthem was played, and Casey Hayward also raised a fist.
Then the notes faded and a whistle blew, and chaos did not overrun the land.
The Chargers (0-3) and Chiefs (3-0) went about playing the game the way they habitually do, the Chiefs well, the Chargers not so well.
There was a catcall or two in StubHub Center, but one wonders if this controversy is mostly confined to our flat screens. It is a benign form of dissent, after all, and the disconnect between NFL fans and NFL players was established long ago.
The patrons have accepted the fact that the players aren’t all Eagle Scouts. They gladly wear jerseys with the names of spousal-abusers and drunk drivers on the back.
They aren’t going to abandon football because of quietly executed forms of expression, no matter how they are interpreted..
There are plenty of other reasons to do that.
The Chargers continued their retreat from the Fight For L.A. in this 24-10 loss, and the problem is not what happens before kickoff but after.
At the moment Philip Rivers looks like the second-best quarterback in town. He threw three interceptions and could have thrown five. That enabled the Chiefs to score their first 17 points, but then the Chargers’ defense forced five consecutive punts, if you include a dunderheaded fake punt that gave Rivers the ball on Kansas City’s 35.
Rivers then missed a third-down pass and the Chargers had to punt. It’s hard to win when you treat victory like a precipice.
Melvin Ingram ripped through the Chiefs’ protectors and sacked Alex Smith three times. But when the Chargers absolutely needed a stop, they swarmed to the left side to stop rookie Kareem Hunt. Then they watched Hunt make an inhuman pivot and streak to the left and into the horizon, a 69-yard touchdown run that made it 24-10, a play that never should happen in the NFL.
“It’s the end of the game, and a lot of guys are trying to make that one play,” said safety Desmond King, who wasn’t on the field at the time. “We didn’t have the right eye discipline, and maybe we overplayed it a little bit.”
“We gotta go back in the lab and get this figured out,” Ingram said. “Everybody has to give a little extra, maybe 10 percent more. We got to go above and beyond. If we don’t, we’re going to be 0-and-whatever.”
And when you lose the turnover battle 3-0, one number is as indicting as the other. That’s two consecutive weeks without a takeaway.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” safety Tre Boston said. “Nobody is going to be on the bandwagon now. But you have to get the one win before you get to two.”
“It’s really a shame,” Rivers said. “The defense played awesome, and on short fields. You hate to be the one to let down the group.”
The flag that gave the Chargers the most trouble was a yellow one, which flew and flew again, gallantly streaming.
Kansas City’s Cairo Santos was in the process of missing a 51-yard field goal when Rayshawn Jenkins barged into him, allowing Santos to handle a 34-yarder and expand the lead to 17-7.
On first-and-10 from the Chiefs’ 22, center Matt Slauson was cited for hands-to-the-face. That happened in the dusk of the second quarter and turned a touchdown chance into a field goal.
Of course, the Chiefs had 13 penalties of their own, not including an undetected fist to Branden Oliver’s back by safety Daniel Sorensen which, in the NHL, would bring some dreaded “supplemental discipline.”
But it came down to the Chiefs’ secondary, scoring a unanimous decison over Rivers and the L.A. receivers.
“When a guy throws a couple of picks, you can always see him getting a little hesitant,” said Terrance Mitchell, who had two interceptions. Peters had the other, when he came back to a sideline route and forced a double-team on Antonio Gates.
“That play was Marcus being Marcus,” Mitchell said. “He just has the sense that lets him see what’s coming, come off his man and come back to make the play.”
Gates dropped a pass on the Chargers’ last meaningful drive, one that was too pass-happy because Melvin Gordon was sidelined. One of the scoreboards, in a Freudian moment, flashed, “Past Intended for Antonio Gates.”
The Chargers can run 113 miles north from their past, but they can’t hide.