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Chargers dump Chiefs; Crennel sticking with Cassel

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) is brought down by Kansas City Chiefs free safety Abram Elam (27) and cornerback Stanford Routt (26) in the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday, September 30, 2012. The Chargers defeated the Chiefs, 37-20.

By Adam Teicher, The Kansas City Star –

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before he could even be asked the question, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel tried to head off the controversy. He said Matt Cassel would be the quarterback for next Sunday’s game against Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium.

But the combination of Cassel’s lousy play in Sunday’s 37-20 loss to San Diego at Arrowhead — he threw three first-half interceptions as the Chiefs fell behind 27-6 — and Crennel’s less-than-enthusiastic defense of his starter guaranteed that the issue won’t be so easily dismissed.

“He still can do some good things,” Crennel said. “The second half, we tried to rally a little bit and we were able to move the ball down the field. We had a spark of life there in the third quarter, and he was the one that helped that spark.

“I could have taken (Jamaal) Charles out because of his struggles and his problems, but he’s also the one who can run for a touchdown. (Those are) some of the decisions a head coach has to make, and you have to go with your gut feeling, and what you know about your team, and then move forward with it.”

Charles lost two fumbles in the first half, which was no small factor in San Diego’s big halftime lead. The difference between Charles and Cassel is that Charles has carried his team to victory many times before, the most recent being last week in New Orleans, when the Chiefs overcame an 18-point deficit and won their first game of the season.

Cassel last week was merely along for the ride, as he has been for many of Kansas City’s victories while he was the quarterback. Cassel had a big hand in last season’s comeback win in Indianapolis, but otherwise has no signature comebacks to his credit.

Crennel also wouldn’t say whether he contemplated turning to backup Brady Quinn at quarterback at any time during Sunday’s game.

“Whether I was considering it or not doesn’t make a difference,” Crennel said. “It’s hypothetical. I didn’t make a change and I’m staying with that.”

The Chiefs committed a devastating six turnovers on Sunday; Shaun Draughn also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.

They now have committed 15 turnovers in four games, and Cassel — with seven interceptions and three lost fumbles — is responsible for 10 of those.

“Obviously, it starts with me,” Cassel said.

One of Cassel’s interceptions was Dexter McCluster’s fault. A second-quarter pass bounced off McCluster’s hands and into the arms of the Chargers’ Antoine Cason.

The others were on Cassel. One of those throws was behind his intended receiver, tight end Tony Moeaki, and returned 21 yards by Donald Butler for a touchdown.

“I have to get (Moeaki) a better ball,” Cassel said. “I’ve got to do a better job of protecting the football and putting our team in a better situation to be successful.”

The Chiefs have a multitude of other issues, including a defense that allowed an opening-possession touchdown for the third time in four games.

But they’re destined to get blown out each week until they can solve their turnover dilemma. The Chiefs had just one takeaway Sunday, a Brandon Flowers interception.

Worse, they have collected just two turnovers this season, making them negative-13 in an all-important statistic: giveaways/takeaways.

“I don’t think it’s on one person,” said tackle Eric Winston in trying to defend Cassel. “You sit up there and you see an interception. I see a bad protection, a wrong route, a wrong block, whatever it might be. You can put the blame on a couple of guys, but to me, that would be incorrect.

“You can sub guys in and out, you can do whatever you want. I’ve been in a lot of situations like this, where you have a team that’s turning the ball over, and seldom is it one guy.”

Crennel has the unenviable task of trying to lead a turnaround that appears most improbable.

The Chiefs’ next opponent, Baltimore, has eight takeaways in four games.

“I told the team that it was bad football … but we have a game to play next week, and we have to pull together and stay together and not point fingers,” Crennel said. “It was everybody involved, coaches and players. Everybody associated was bad today, and that’s how we’re going to have to look at it, and we’ll have to see if we can get better somehow and play better against good football teams.”

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