KC Chiefs hoping they've begun a new era with Monday night victory over Chargers

This city has some catching up to do on its sleep.

The Kansas City Chiefs, a franchise that's spent three years in the dumps, kept themselves and their town up late Monday night with a 21-14 victory.

Beating the four-time defending AFC West champion San Diego Chargers took until about 12:20 a.m. early Tuesday morning.

And as excited as everybody seemed to be, it's hard to imagine everyone simply turned out the lights and fell asleep after the Chiefs' first Monday night victory in 10 years gave them a winning record (1-0) for the first time in almost three years.

"Our transitioning team, our team in transition, went out against a very good opponent ... and we found a way to win," second-year coach Todd Haley said Tuesday. "I think that's a real important point here."

The Chiefs obviously have issues. They had only one offensive touchdown that was not the result of a turnover deep in Chargers territory. Jamaal Charles scored one TD on a 56-yard run and rookie Dexter McCluster scored another with a team-record 94-yard punt return.

Matt Cassel, who did very little throughout the rainy, windy night, did complete a 2-yard TD pass to tight end Tony Moeaki, another rookie, after Ryan Mathews' fumble gave the Chiefs the ball on the 12.

But counting a couple of good kickoff returns by rookie Javier Arenas, the Chiefs actually had more yards in kick returns (219) than total offense (197). Playing conservatively while protecting a lead in the rotten weather, the Chiefs managed only 70 yards of offense in the second half.

Cassel, outplayed all night long by Philip Rivers, completed 10 of 22 passes for 68 yards. Rivers was 22 for 39 for 298 yards and two scores.

But with a bevy of promising young players, a once-proud franchise that totaled only 10 victories the past three years may actually be turning the corner.

Rivers drove San Diego to a first and goal from the 4 with 74 seconds to play and seemed almost certain to go in for the overtime-forcing score.

But a run and two missed passes only pushed the Chargers back 2 yards. Then on fourth down, harassed by defensive end Glenn Dorsey, Rivers missed again.

The players, especially the veterans who were around for last year's 4-12 struggle and the 2-14 debacle of 2008, insisted they could sense in those final decisive seconds that something was different, something about themselves had changed.

"It was something special out there," said Dorsey.

The third-year defender had perhaps his best game as a Chiefs with six tackles and half of the first sack the Chiefs have put on Rivers in more than a year.

"We fought a hard-fought game. Nobody gave us a chance," Dorsey said. "For us to come that far and dealing with our past, where maybe the other team might score in that situation, we all had that in the back of our mind, saying, 'Not tonight.'"

Another good sign was the run defense. With almost every starter back from the defense that was 31st last year against the run, KC held the Chargers to 109 yards rushing on the wet turf.

"When you have a team that hasn't come out on the 'W' side of things very often for a number of years, when you get into those situations and you have a lead or you're close in a game, which we've had a number of, finishing the game is very critical," said Haley.

"You need to see that success some. I know that's real important to our players that they were able to come out on top of a game that meant a lot to a lot of people and means a lot to myself and our staff.

"That's a real good thing. I think that will help us as we go forward."