SAN DIEGO (AP) – Drew Brees and Antonio Gates played pitch and catch against a hapless Kansas City defense, and even LaDainian Tomlinson got a piece of the action.

Brees threw three touchdown passes to Gates and finished with 324 yards passing as the San Diego Chargers beat the Chiefs 28-20 on Sunday. Tomlinson, slowed again on the ground, threw his third TD pass of the season, a 17-yarder to Eric Parker.

The defending AFC West champion Chargers (4-4) called this a must-win game and got big performances from Brees, Gates and the defense. Although injuries forced starting linebackers Steve Foley and Randall Godfrey to sit out, the Chargers frustrated the Chiefs (4-3) most of the afternoon and sacked Trent Green four times.

Brees completed 25 of 43 passes, with TD throws of 19, 20 and 35 yards to Gates. He also was intercepted once.

Gates put the game out of reach when he caught a short pass at the KC 32, bulled through strong safety Sammy Knight and ran into the end zone for a 28-13 lead with 9:10 left.

Gates had 10 catches for 145 yards, both career highs, and the three TD catches tied his career best. Tomlinson gained 69 yards on 17 carries a week after being held to a career-low 7 yards in a loss at Philadelphia.

Green, whose father, Jim, died late last week, was 31-of-43 for 347 yards. Kansas City’s Priest Holmes was shaken up midway through the third quarter and didn’t return.

San Diego rookie outside linebacker Shawne Merriman sacked Green twice and forced the KC quarterback to fumble at the San Diego 22 late in the third quarter, with Shaun Phillips recovering. Phillips started for Foley.

The Chargers stopped the Chiefs at the San Diego 9 late in the game. Green did throw a 7-yard scoring pass to Eddie Kennison with 2:12 left, but the Chargers recovered the onside kick and the Chiefs were out of timeouts.

The Chargers rebounded from a 20-17 loss at Philadelphia in which they committed two critical mistakes in the final minutes. Gates caught a 19-yard TD pass down the right sideline in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead, then burned linebacker Kawika Mitchell to make a 20-yard scoring catch with 27 seconds left before halftime for a 21-3 lead.

Tomlinson’s TD throw to Parker was sandwiched in between. Tomlinson had given the Chargers a first down at the KC 17 with a 13-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. On the next play, he swung out to the right, took a quick toss from Brees and threw to Parker, who was the only player in the end zone.

The Chiefs, particularly cornerback Patrick Surtain, bit so hard when Brees tossed to Tomlinson that Parker didn’t have a defender within 10 yards of him.

Tomlinson has thrown four career touchdown passes.

Kansas City’s Lawrence Tynes kicked a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter. Tony Gonzalez caught a 16-yard pass from Green midway through the third quarter to pull the Chiefs to 21-10.

AP-ES-10-30-05 1937EST

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