SAN DIEGO -- Alex Smith knows Qualcomm Stadium well, from teaming with Reggie Bush to lead Helix High to consecutive San Diego Section championships to throwing five touchdown passes against San Diego State for Utah in its BCS-busting season of 2004.
Smith earned his first NFL victory at the aging concrete bowl in Mission Valley on Sunday, leading the Kansas City Chiefs to a 23-20 victory against San Diego that snapped the Chargers' five-game winning streak.
"There might be something to it. I'm definitely comfortable here," Smith said. "I've played a lot here -- high school, college and as a professional. I think it had more to do with executing out there for sure."
That, he did. Smith completed three straight passes for 43 yards on the drive capped by rookie Cairo Santos's winning 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.
Just like that, the Chiefs made the AFC West a three-team race.
Coming off their bye, the Chiefs (3-3) pulled within 1 1/2 games of San Diego (5-2). The Denver Broncos (4-1) hosted San Francisco on Sunday night. Had the Chiefs lost, they would have dropped three games behind San Diego.
"I think this team is in a good place mentally," Smith said. "We took this challenge on, and we had two weeks to get ready with the bye week. We took it on as a challenge with no one giving us a chance. We felt like coming into this game, we were a couple plays away from being 4-1. This was an opportunity for us to kind of show what we're made of, show the country. I feel like we're in a good place and we'll keep going."
Coach Andy Reid, in his second season with the Chiefs, improved his career record in games following a bye week to 14-2 (.875), the most victories of any NFL head coach in games following a bye week.
"I don't think there's a secret to it," said Reid, who compiled most of that post-bye magic while coaching Philadelphia. "When we have good players and good coaches, good things happen. I've been lucky enough to be in those situations."
The Chargers flunked their sternest test in a month and lost for the first time since a defeat at Arizona in the season opener.
Jamaal Charles scored once and gained 95 yards to give him 6,113 for his career, moving him to the top of Kansas City's career list. He passed Priest Holmes, who had 6,070.
"That was my first time winning here," Charles said. "That was big, it was a big win. That's a good team, they have a great defense, great quarterback on their side. That was an amazing game to pull off today. The team fought with will and we went out there to play a great game."
Charles weaved in and out of traffic to score on a 16-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Former teammate Brandon Flowers leveled him a yard into the end zone, too late to keep the Chiefs from tying it at 7.
Flowers later left the game with a concussion.
"Flowers put a big hit on me, but I'm thankful that I got up healthy," Charles said.
The Chargers, facing an established quarterback for the first time in four games, allowed Smith to complete 19 of 28 passes for 221 yards.
Now they travel to face the Broncos.
"When you win five in a row, losing stinks," San Diego's Philip Rivers said. "We have to handle it right and get ready to go to Denver on Thursday night and not let this thing go to two in a row."
Rivers was 17 of 31 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. After setting an NFL record with five straight games with a passer rating of 120 or better, he tumbled to 83.4.
Smith had given the Chiefs a 20-14 lead with an 11-yard touchdown pass to fullback Anthony Sherman with 14:50 left.
Sherman broke a tackle inside the 10 and scored to cap an 11-play, 70-yard drive. On the previous play, a holding call against Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall nullified a sack of Smith and gave the Chiefs a first down at the 11.
The Chargers got to the Kansas City 6 before Rivers threw two straight incompletions and San Diego had to settle for Nick Novak's 24-yard field goal to close to 20-17.
Novak kicked a 48-yarder to tie the game with 1:57 left.
Novak has 31 straight field goal conversions, breaking John Carney's team record of 29 set in 1992-93.
Antonio Gates caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Rivers just before halftime. It was the 67th career TD pass from Rivers to Gates, the most in NFL history from a quarterback to a tight end.
Rivers extended his team record to 27 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. ... Chargers backup tight end John Phillips made his first catch of the season a big one, a 1-yard touchdown reception late in the first quarter. ... Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway injured a hamstring.
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