It was a little less than three weeks ago when the San Diego Chargers were walking off their own field, embarrassed by their division rivals to the tune of 33-3. The Chargers were never in the game. It was out-and-out domination by a Kansas City Chiefs team that nobody really talked about as a playoff contender.
So, What Went Wrong?
In a nutshell? Everything.
The San Diego Chargers caught the Kansas City Chiefs at exactly the wrong time. The Chiefs were three games into their now six-game winning streak, and the Chargers were five games into what would be a six-game losing streak. It was a team playing their best football against a team playing their worst.
The Chargers run-blocking, which was expected to be boosted by the return of a couple of offensive linemen (including offseason free-agent signing Orlando Franklin), was horrendous. They finished with a yards-per-attempt average of 2.1, and got pushed around on every single snap of the ball.
The Chargers defense wasn't much better, yielding 8.7 yards per attempt and 2 rushing touchdowns to somebody named Spencer Ware. Alex Smith completed 80% of his passes for 10.1 yards-per-attempt, compared to 63% and 5.9 for Philip Rivers (who also threw a pick-six).
So, What's Changed?
Usually, the second time two divisional rivals meet up, much has changed and it's a whole new game. In this instance, that isn't really true.
The Chiefs are still winning games with a dominating defense. The Chargers are still losing games against decent NFL teams.
Really, the only thing that really stands out as a change is that the Chargers have benched Donald Butler, replacing him with rookie LB Denzel Perryman, and have seen improved performance from their front-seven and overall defense as a result.
Now, is that change big enough to swing the game back in the direction of a fair matchup? In Kansas City? Probably not. However, it should make it harder for the Chiefs to get the ground game going, which will put more pressure on Alex Smith to make plays to get points.