"This gets us out of the history books," a relieved coach Mike Riley said after the Chargers beat Kansas City 17-16 Sunday, stopping their season-opening losing streak at 11.
The Chargers were spared a dirty dozen losses, thanks to John Carney's 52-yard field goal with 2:14 left.
San Diego's defense then went all-out as Kansas City got one last shot behind an ineffective Warren Moon, who turned 44 eight days earlier. Safety Michael Dumas raced in and sacked Moon on third down, then punched his fists into the air.
After Moon's fourth-down pass sailed incomplete with 1:10 to play, linebacker Junior Seau fell to his knees at midfield and stayed there for an extra moment, relieved that the ugliness that made the Chargers a national joke was finally over.
Still, all that losing was taking its toll.
"When you're putting your kids to bed and their prayer at night is `God, please let daddy win, sometime,' you know it's getting bad," said Seau, a father of three.
Walking off the field, Ryan Leaf threw the game ball into the crowd, one his better passes all day. Leaf threw two touchdown passes to tight end Freddie Jones in the first half, but he was intercepted twice in the second half when both offenses were awful.
The Chargers tried to give it away by committing five turnovers, but it came down to Carney, a 14-year veteran who earlier this season became the first player in team history to score 1,000 poits.
Carney kicked the ball straight through the uprights, then jumped up and down and leapt into the arms of holder Darren Bennett. He then went around and head-butted his blockers.
"It felt pretty good coming off my foot," Carney said. "But that doesn't mean that they always go through when they feel like that. I watched this one until it did.
"This has been a tough time for all of us. It feels great to get into the win column."
With Moon making just his second start in two years, the Chiefs (5-7) lost their fourth straight game. Moon started in place of Elvis Grbac, who has a sore right index finger.
Coincidentally, San Diego also beat Kansas City in 1975 after starting 0-11.
"It's tough to keep our heads up, losing four in a row and then coming out here to San Diego and losing to a team that hasn't won a game all year," cornerback Eric Warfield said.
The Chargers seemed to be just minutes away from setting the team record for consecutive losses at 12, which also would have been the worst NFL start since Indianapolis went 0-13 in 1986.
But Nate Jacquet returned a punt 35 yards to the Kansas City 36 to set up Carney's kick for a fourth-quarter lead that held. During their losing streak, the Chargers had blown late fourth-quarter leads six times.
"We know how to win," defensive tackle John Parrella said. "We just had forgotten how to knock people out."
The Chiefs took a 16-14 lead on Todd Peterson's 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter, a kick they had to take because fullback Tony Richardson was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct following a run that appeared to give the Chiefs enough for first-and-goal inside the 2.
Richardson got up and spiked the ball, happy that he'd made a big play, and was flagged.
"I was just spiking out of excitement, trying to get a momentum swing," Richardson said. "I knew for sure I had the first down."
Referee Bernie Kukar said the officials considered the penalty part of the play and enforced it from the spot, giving the Chiefs third down at the 16. After Richardson gained just 3 yards, Kansas City settled for Peterson's field goal.
Leaf gave the Chargers a 14-6 halftime lead with touchdown passes of 20 and 7 yards to Jones on consecutive drives.
But on the second play of the second half, linebacker Marvcus Patton inercepted Leaf and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to pull the Chiefs to 14-13. It was the second time Leaf has had an interception returned for a touchdown this season.
Moon completed just 12 of 31 passes for 130 yards with one interception. Leaf was 17-of-30 for 177 yards.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed