Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Seyi Ajirotutu's 26-yard touchdown catch with 24 seconds left gave the San Diego Chargers a 41-38 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Ajirotutu beat Sean Smith to the left side of the end zone and caught Philip Rivers' pass as he fell to the ground, representing the eighth combined lead change -- including seven in the second half -- between the AFC West rivals.
It came after Dwayne Bowe's 5-yard touchdown catch at the other end had given the Chiefs a 38-34 lead with 1:22 left.
If was Ajirotutu's third catch of the season and first touchdown since 2010.
"That's one of those you'll never forget, that's for sure," Rivers said of the game. "It was a heck of a team win. It's the kind of win that can save a season."
Rivers completed three straight passes of 12 yards or more on the game-winning 78-yard drive and delivered the winning strike one play after he was sacked for the first time. He threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with Ladarius Green on a 60-yard score and Danny Woodhead on an 11-yarder.
Ryan Mathews ran for 55 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and Keenan Allen had nine catches for 124 yards for the Chargers (5-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
"It's been a tough couple weeks. We've had some difficult losses but the true character of our football team came out today," said Chargers coach Mike McCoy. "The great leadership we have and the perseverance we have as a team, it showed today."
Alex Smith passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns for the Chiefs (9-2), who have lost two in a row after going 9-0 to start the season for the first time in 10 years.
Jamaal Charles rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and Donnie Avery and Anthony Fasano had touchdown catches in the loss.
"It wasn't enough," said Smith. "We didn't do enough as a team to get it done, so it stings. It's all for naught. ... (But) you get better from it and you learn for the next game, or you can sit and sulk and not move past it. We're 9-2 with a lot of season left. A lot can happen."
The Chargers have beaten the Chiefs three straight times and have won 10 of the last 12 meetings.
The Chiefs, coming off a loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday night, lost Pro Bowl linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to injuries in the first half.
Hali was helped off the field by medical staff in the second quarter and was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury. Houston walked off under his own control later in the first half with an elbow injury. The pair combined for 20 sacks coming into the game and will both have MRIs Monday.
The Chiefs hadn't given up 41 points since a 48-3 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 2 of the 2011 season. They allowed San Diego to gain 491 yards on offense.
"There are a whole lot of things we can from this and that's what we're going to do," said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. "We'll work on getting ourselves better from this."
The Chargers were down 11, but Woodhead scored with 16 seconds left in the first half and Eddie Royal's 54-yard catch on the third play of the second half set up Mathews' 1-yard touchdown run to give them a 17-14 lead.
Three pass interference penalties on the Chargers helped the Chiefs come right back to take the lead. The last was called on cornerback Richard Marshall for holding Fasano in the end zone, setting up Charles' 1-yard touchdown run.
Marcus Gilchrist intercepted Smith's tipped pass and returned it 17 yards to the Kansas City 16 and Woodhead's 3-yard run put the Chargers back on top.
Fasano stretched into the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown catch to make it 28-24 Chiefs, but the Chargers cut it to one on Nick Novak's 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. One play earlier, Chiefs safety Quintin Demps dropped an interception in the end zone.
Kansas City responded with Ryan Succop's 25-yard field goal at the other end, restoring its four-point lead, but the Chargers struck back quickly.
Green beat Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers across the middle on his 60-yard touchdown with 7:50 remaining to give the Chargers a 34-31 advantage.
Smith went 5-for-6 on a 55-yard drive, including a screen pass to Charles for 19 yards. Bowe was covered closely by Marcus Gilchrist in the middle of the end zone but caught the back-shoulder pass for the short-lived lead.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry was whistled for a pass interference penalty to take the Chargers to the Kansas City 21-yard line. Berry had the Chiefs's first sack in three weeks on the next play, but Rivers shook it off to throw the game-winning pass.
Earlier, Allen's 29-yard catch-and-run down the left sideline set up Novak's 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 Chargers lead. Smith then completed five of six passes on the next drive and found Avery for a 32-yard touchdown pass, giving the Chiefs a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Avery got behind Cox again for a 36-yard catch and Charles scored from seven yards on the next play to make it 14-3 Chiefs with 3:03 remaining in the half.
The Chargers responded with Rivers' 11-yard touchdown pass to Woodhead, who burned Chiefs linebacker Dezman Moses down the left side to get open in the end zone and make it 14-10.
Allen had eight catches for 104 yards in the first half.
The Chiefs get the Broncos again next week at home ... The Chargers are home against the Cincinnati Bengals next week ... The Chiefs were without offensive linemen Eric Fisher and Jon Asamoah and defensive lineman Mike DeVito.