In what is always a close game the Chiefs and Chargers will renew their old rivalry that goes back to their AFL days Sunday with a noon kickoff at Arrowhead. If you would have told the Chiefs coaching staff back in August that heading in to the seventh game of the season that they would only be one win behind the Chargers they probably would have taken it, but that is when everyone assumed San Diego was the class of the West head and shoulders above everybody else.
Since that point Denver has proven that to be wrong with their undefeated record and the Chargers have played some of their worst football in several years. The Chiefs mean while are coming of their first win of the season defeating a Washington Redskins team that was in complete disarray, The Chiefs who have been in close games with good teams all season will get a chance to show if their victory in Washington will give them the confidence to be able to close games out.
Last year the Chiefs lost to the Chargers by a combined two points in two games this year the Chargers are much weaker, gone is the anchor of their defensive line Jamal Williams who was lost for the season with a injury. This injury has weakened the Chargers run defense and prohibited Shawn Merriman from getting to the quarterback and reeking havoc in the backfield.
From 2005-2007 Merriman had 39.5 sacks, last season Merriman was injured and had to hang it up for the season after one game, to put in perspective how bad this former NFL sack leader season is going Merriman has zero sacks thru five games his backup rookie Larry English already has two. Merriman is not the only Charger struggling right now for the fourth straight season LaDainian Tomlinson’s average yards per carry have decreased. Tomlinson is averaging 3.7 yards a carry his understudy Darren Sproles who was supposed to push Tomlinson for his job this season is averaging a mere 2.4 yards a carry.
While the Chargers are definitely a team with problems the Chiefs are a team with problems of their own more problems than one victory can fix. The Chiefs still cannot protect the quarterback, Matt Cassel has been sacked 14 times in the last three games, in the five games he has played in this season he has been sacked 19 times and knocked down a total of 39 times meaning 58 times he has had to pick himself up off the ground.
Pass protection will be a big test for the Chiefs this week, the Chargers may not have a ton of sacks but they three skilled pass rushers just waiting for a weak offensive line to bust out against. The Chiefs must also figure out how to replace nose guard Tank Tyler who was traded this week to the Carolina Panthers. There has been talk about Glenn Dorsey and Wallace Gilberry spelling Ron Edwards at the nose tackle position. Neither player ( Dorsey 303 pounds, Gilberry 268 pounds) have the prototypical size to man the nose in the 3-4 but the Chiefs only dress six defensive lineman and will have to make due with what they have.
Keys to the Game
1. Keep the Chargers down: Last week the Chiefs learned the formula to win a game it should not have been that hard …. They got the ball to L.J. and D-Bowe their two most talented offensive players. D-Bowe had six catches for 106 yards and L.J. got 20 + carries and turned it in to 83 yards his best performance of the season by far. The Chargers are more talented than the Redskins but have a lot of the same issues that the Redskins have, a team doubting their leadership, underperforming and a coach somewhat on the hot seat. Last season the Chargers squeaked out two one point victories over the Chiefs if the Chiefs are going to show improvement they can’t let a opportunity to keep the Chargers down slip thru their grasp.
2. Expose the defense: When this team was coached by Marty Schottenheimer it was one of the top toughest defensive units in the league . Slowly under Norv Turner the Chargers defense has eroded, granted with Jamal Williams out it takes away a lot of what the Chargers did on defense but with pass rushers like Shawn Merriman, Shaun Phillips and rookie Larry English they should have more than seven sacks on the season. In addition the pass defense has left something to be desired despite having Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer two of the best cover guys in the NFL. The game plan should be simple for the Chiefs offensively open holes for L.J. and give him 20 + carries and get D-Bowe involved in the passing game early and often.
3. Frustrate Phillip Rivers: There are two things that can happen when you get in Phillip Rivers face and frustrate him. 1. He flips the switch gets motivated and becomes the Phillip Rivers that can air the ball out and bring his team back from being 20 points down. 2. He gets tired of getting hit starts yelling at his offensive linemen, starts forcing the ball which leads to turnovers which leads him to yell at everybody including the referees. If the Chiefs can accomplish the latter and get Rivers off of his game and be risky with the ball they have a lot better chance at victory than when they are playing the dynamic and efficient Rivers.