Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 41-38 loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chiefs lost their second straight game to fall to 9-2. They could still end the day tied for first place in the AFC West if the Denver Broncos lose to the Patriots Sunday night in New England.

Stock watch: Quarterback Alex Smith for much of the day was having his best game of the season. But he sailed a pass in the middle of the third quarter well over the head of wide receiver Donnie Avery, and the interception by safety Marcus Gilchrist gave the Chargers the ball at the Kansas City 16. From there, the Chargers scored the touchdown that put them ahead. Smith later rallied the Chiefs, but the Chargers eventually had too much for the Kansas City defense, which allowed almost 500 yards. Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper had his second straight subpar game. He had particular trouble covering wide receivers Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal on shallow crossing routes.

Rushless: The Chiefs played much of the game without their two top pass-rushers, outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Each left the game in the first half with an injury, Hali to his ankle and Houston to his elbow. The Chiefs, ahead 7-3 when Hali left the lineup and 14-3 when Houston left the game, clearly weren’t the same team after their departures. The Chargers went on two long touchdown drives immediately after the Chiefs began playing without either one. Their replacements were veteran Frank Zombo, signed as a free agent from the Green Bay Packers during the offseason, and Dezman Moses, who was claimed off waivers from the Packers to start the regular season.

What’s next: Control of the AFC West race could rest with the outcome of next Sunday’s game against the Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. The Broncos won 27-17 in their first meeting last week in Denver.