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Chiefs lose Tamba Hali (ankle), Justin Houston (elbow) to injuries

Injuries Justin Houston (left) and Tamba Hali could prove critical with a game against the Broncos on deck. Injuries to Justin Houston (left) and Tamba Hali could prove critical with a game against the Broncos on deck. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Two key members of the Chiefs' top-ranked defense left Sunday's game with injuries. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali had to be carted off after hurting his ankle in the second quarter, then Justin Houston injured his elbow while fending off  a block from Antonio Gates. Kansas City already found itself down defensive tackle Mike DeVito, who dropped with a knee injury in the team's last game.

Both players were listed as questionable to return. Dezman Moses and Frank Zombo replaced Houston and Hali, respectively.

The injured OLBs entered Week 12 with a combined 20 sacks on the year -- 11 from Houston and nine from Hali. Those numbers account for more than half of the Chiefs' 36 sacks on the year.

Kansas City's D mostly has avoided major injury this season, so the setbacks Sunday represent potentially critical hurdles. The Chiefs did manage to thrive without injured cornerback Brandon Flowers early in 2013, but losing Hali and Houston at the same time might prove even more difficult to overcome.

The Chiefs are coming off their first loss of the season, 27-17 to Denver, and after Sunday's game against the Chargers, they take on the Broncos again. In other words, this is about the worst possible time for injuries to mount on the defense.

The effects of those missing guys was felt almost instantly against San Diego, too. Philip Rivers closed the first half by tossing a TD to Danny Woodhead, then the Chargers scored again early in the second half to grab a 17-14 lead after trailing 14-3.

Houston has not missed a game in his three NFL seasons; Hali has sat out just two contests since entering the league in 2006.

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