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Chargers vs. Chiefs Preview: When the Bolts Have the Ball

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons to hate the Chargers even more than you actually do: they’re probably going to beat the Chiefs. Kansas City is very good. I thought they would win the AFC West but early on here that seems to have been selling them short. The Chiefs lost all-everything Eric Berry to a season-ending injury and their defense really didn’t take a step back. Let’s look at some of the battles we’ll see when the Chargers have the ball.

Sluggish up front

While the Chargers couldn’t get a run game going last week, the pass protection was exceptional. The team dropped back 40 times and the offensive line didn’t surrender a sack. The lone sack that was given up came at the hands of Melvin Gordon. Ben Muth of Football Outsiders wrote a great article breaking down the line against Miami. Here’s an excerpt that sums up my thoughts:

In Wiggins’ defense, he was going against some Ndamukong Suh guy.

For the Chiefs last week, they got after the Eagles offensive line, especially in the 4th quarter. Bob Sutton was sending guys from every angle. Safety Daniel Sorenson impacted 2 throws that come to mind.

That’ll fall on Gordon, who is much improved in pass protection but can still be more consistent. The Chiefs finished with a whopping 6 sacks last week and a bunch of other QB hits. Justin Houston is healthy. Joe Barksdale is not. The last time the Chargers threw out a backup tackle against Houston he had a field day. It’s the Chiefs defensive tackle who stole the show last week. Chris Jones was everywhere. 3 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Ironically, the Eagles had plenty of time to throw for the majority of the game. Jones still picks and chooses when he wants to play. The other interior linemen are sluggish. Based on how the offensive line has blocked the 1st two weeks, Philip Rivers should have time to scan the field. Okung versus Dee Ford might be the key matchup.

As far as running the ball, the Chargers just need to do better. Specifically the guards. Slauson isn’t moving well. Wiggins is giving too much ground. This week is a good match-up for both. The Chiefs interior line has some quickness between the 3-4 bodies they play, but aren’t exactly stout run defenders. As a unit, the Chiefs have been one of the worst run defenses early on here. As you know, the Chargers aren’t paving holes for Gordon either. They’re trying, though. Check this out from last week:

From right to left that’s Okung, Barksdale, Wiggins, Pulley, Slauson, Henry. The play didn’t go anywhere but again, they’re trying. There hasn’t been a team worse at opening up holes so far than the Chargers. Go, team! Something has to give on the ground, right?

Help on the perimeter

Loving the move of Keenan Allen playing in the slot so far this season. He’s been there more often than not. Here’s why that’s big for this week.

Kansas City has one of the worst nickel corners in the league in Philip Gaines. They stay true to what they do on defense. Marcus Peters on one side. Terrance Mitchell to the other. Gaines inside. Gaines constantly seems lost in coverage. That is a distinct advantage for the Chargers.

How often they target Peters when he’s not guarded by Allen will be interesting. On one hand, you have to keep him honest. On the other hand, you don’t want to lose the game. Peters is a gamer. He’s already one of the 5 best corners in the league. With the lack of production that the team has gotten from Tyrell Williams & Travis Benjamin on the outside, maybe it’s smart to just stay away. If the offense is going to be consistent, they need a perimeter threat.

Inside is where the Chargers really have the upper hand. Derrick Johnson can’t run anymore. Berry is out. Sorensen isn’t a cover safety. Berry’s replacement is a former college corner and he’s actually been impressive. Sometimes they stay in base defense and have him guard the slot receiver. Speaking of Eric Murray, as well as he’s played getting him on a big body tight end like Antonio Gates or Hunter Henry is advantage offense. The whole throw the ball to Henry thing worked last week and he should continue to be at worst 3rd on the team in targets. I imagine the team will take shots down the field on Mitchell, who can cover but is susceptible deep. Then really work the middle of the field.


  • 2<sacks
  • More than 6.0 yards per play
  • 45%> on 3rd down conversions
  • Over 65 plays
  • 75%> TD% in red area

The sacks will be tough to come by. Sutton can be creative and it’s easier when you don’t have a QB that can run around. Rivers does do a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly.

The Chargers have done a good job in regards to yards per play this year. They’ve averaged 5.6. That’s good for 10th in the league. You have to do better against the better teams.

The next 2 the Chargers have been woeful at in the first 2 games. When Ken Whisenhunt 1st started he was a mastermind on 3rd down. They are 2nd to last in the league through 2 games. Only converting a laughable 25%. There’s just too much talent on this side of the ball for that to happen. The Chiefs haven’t exactly been stingy, as they’ve given up 43%.

The total plays are common sense. If they’re running more plays, they’re moving the ball and they’re keeping the Chiefs offense off the field. In 2 games the Chargers have averaged 55 plays a game. That’s 3rd worst in the league. If you don’t convert on 3rd down you obviously won’t stay on the field. If they want to have a chance they’ll need to stay on the field against the Chiefs.