Means weighs heavily in 5-0 Chargers' win


SAN DIEGO -- A physical message was sent to the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday: There is a new bully in the American Football Conference's Western Division.

The sender was the undefeated San Diego Chargers.

Behind the running of Natrone Means and a suffocating defensive front, the Chargers pounded Kansas City to remain the NFL's only undefeated team with a 20-6 victory before a playoff-ready crowd of 62,923 at Jack Murphy Stadium, the largest home crowd in Chargers history.

After losing eight consecutive regular-season games to the Chiefs, San Diego made sure of its statement by dominating both sides of the ball while extending Kansas City's touchdown scoreless streak to eight quarters.

San Diego's biggest and most punishing weapon was Means, who ran for a career-high 125 yards in 19 carries. With his $H offensive line opening gaping holes at will, Means scored one touchdown and set up another as the Chargers averaged 5 yards a carry in gaining 151 yards.

"We had two weeks to kind of build this game up and it definitely had a playoff atmosphere," San Diego linebacker Junior Seau said. "I hope we kind of boosted our stock in the NFL to get the respect we deserve."

With a 5-0 record, the Chargers are off to their best start since 1961, when they finished 11-0 to win the American Football League's Western Division championship.

San Diego, which has defeated all four of its AFC West rivals, also moved two games ahead of the second-place Chiefs.

How thoroughly did the Chargers' defense dominate the line of scrimmage?

Kansas City quarterback Joe Montana's 55 pass attempts say it all.

Without a running game to count on, Montana was forced to the air and the Chiefs' short passing game. Montana completed 37 passes for 310 yards, but most importantly, was kept out of the end zone.

"At times he did look rattled," said Seau, who had a game-high 12 tackles. "We won the battle up front and we knew once we could get them to pass, we had them where we wanted."

Of Montana's 37 completions, 19 were to backs. Marcus Allen was his favorite with nine catches for 83 yards. On the ground, however, Allen rushed for only 17 yards in 10 carries.

"They made some good plays on runs," Montana said about the Chargers' defense. "Those guys up front are pretty good."

The Chargers quickly took control of the game by gaining good field position, something they have done well all season.

After taking the opening kickoff, San Diego drove to near midfield before punting, pinning the Chiefs back to their own 9-yard line.

From there, the Chargers' defense took over, forcing Kansas City to punt after three plays.

With a short field to work with, San Diego needed 11 plays before John Carney kicked a 23-yard field goal to give the Chargers a 3-0 lead.

After Montana led the Chiefs on a 14-play, 63-yard drive at the start of the second quarter that tied the game on a 25-yard field goal by Lin Elliott, San Diego responded with scores on its next two possessions.

Carney kicked a 32-yarder to take a 6-3 lead to end a 64-yard drive. After a Kansas City punt, the Chargers came right back behind Means, who carried five consecutive times before finishing the 43-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.

In the third quarter, both teams struggled to move the ball as they combined to punt the ball five times. The Chiefs did manage another field goal to begin the fourth quarter when Elliott connected from 25 yards out.

With a 13-6 lead and 13:02 remaining in the game, San Diego turned to Means once again. The Chargers drove 77 yards in nine plays with Means accounting for 57. Quarterback Stan Humphries finished off the drive with a 5-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Seay.

"Natrone had a great ballgame," San Diego coach Bobby Ross said. "When we had to get it done in the fourth quarter, we had a good patented drive and most of it was on the ground."

Forced to play catch-up, Montana drove the Chiefs twice deep into San Diego territory in the final four minutes of the game but came away empty.

Not only was he hurried on many of his throws but he also had several passes dropped.

"In my mind the best team won," Kansas City coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

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