Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers v. Chiefs, p. I

Will the Chiefs lean on their ground game against the Bolts? Will Philip Rivers make it six in a row with a passer rating above 120? Is this a must-win game for Kansas City? For these and other answers, check out this Behind Enemy Lines piece from Nick Athan of WarpaintIllustrated.com and Michael Lombardo of SDBoltReport.com.

Michael Lombardo: The Chiefs have been all over the board this season. Their win over the Patriots was among the season's most impressive, while their home loss to the Titans is one of the season's bigger head-scratchers. Why the inconsistency?

Nick Athan: It has really boiled down to the inability of Head Coach Andy Reid to trust his running game. In key situations, which resulted in two of the Chiefs' three losses at Denver and at San Francisco, he tried to be fancy in short-yardage situations that ultimately backfired. Reid's stance, though, might be right considering the offensive line was a big question mark heading into 2014. However, they've been the most pleasant surprise offensively for this team.

Kansas City has the best running back duo in the NFL with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis in the backfield. Reid must get the most out of them every game, establish the run and then use the pass to dart opponents. It's a formula he'll probably adopt going forward because his defense has shown the ability to get the ball back into the hands of his offense.

ML: Jamaal Charles has been underutilized so far this season. Do you expect that to change this week? How will he split the workload with Knile Davis, who had a big game of his own the last time he came to San Diego?

NA: Again, it goes back to the first point. The thing with Charles was he began the year not at 100 percent. Though the Chiefs haven't publicly used that as an excuse, it probably was a factor that contributed to his ankle sprain in Week 2. Now he's healthy and I expect he'll get a steady flow of carries. The problem with the Chiefs' offense is that Charles is so good that sometimes they use him as a decoy to set up another play. Though that's a good plan, it doesn't always work.

Charles has always stated he needs 20-plus carries a game to find that magical rhythm. Again, the offensive line, though better at pass blocking than run blocking, has created enough space at times to allow Charles to bust off some long runs. Add that with the fact that Davis is an elite running back and the two could continue to put up big numbers as the season unfolds. But it all begins with Sir Charles.

ML: The Chiefs come to town with the league's No. 8 pass defense (they rank seventh with 15 sacks). How do you like their chances of slowing Philip Rivers and snapping his streak of five straight games with a passer rating over 120?

NA: If I put my fan cap on for a minute, I can't see any reason that Rivers won't torch the Chiefs this weekend. He's absolutely owned the Chiefs in San Diego and Arrowhead for that matter. To me, he's the best quarterback in the NFL today. Sure Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady are good but no one quarterback is in a better zone right now than Rivers.

Though he can be rocked in the pocket, and the Chiefs will bring an assortment of blitzes, he always seems to make that clutch throw killing any defensive momentum against his AFC rival. He's done it to Kansas City over and over again. I can't come up with a single reason that won't be the case again on Sunday.

ML: I read a lot of your stuff and I get the sense you are not a fan of Andy Reid. How do you grade his performance as head coach so far this season? Is he the right man to lead this team?

NA: It's not that I'm not a fan of Andy Reid. I think he's a terrific coach and a great motivator. He did the impossible last season, bringing the franchise from the worst in the NFL to a playoff team. That wasn't an easy task. Add that with the fact he played second and third stringers a year ago in San Diego and nearly pulled off the upset. That tells me he can flat out coach.

However, like all NFL head coaches, his ego gets in the way. That's not really a criticism because the other 31 head coaches in the league share that common thread. For me, though, I wish he'd adjust better to the ebb and flow of each game. If the running game is working, then pound the ball. If the passing game is working, then keep throwing it.

ML: Is this a must-win game for a Chiefs? A loss would drop them to 2-4, meaning it would likely take an 8-2 finish to get into the playoffs.

NA: This is an absolute must game for the Chiefs. After the Chargers game this weekend, their remaining schedule is relatively easy. They play a bunch of bad teams and will have three of their remaining four AFC West games at Arrowhead Stadium. Still, defeating the Chargers on Sunday won't be easy. The good news is that Kansas City is healthy and the Chargers appear to be riddled with enough injuries to think an upset is possible.

If the Chiefs are going to win this football game, they have to be lights out offensively. The Chargers gave up a bunch points to the lowly Raiders last Sunday. The Chiefs' offense is light years ahead of the Raiders so that could cause fits for San Diego defensively. But the key will be to sustain long drives and never settle for field goals.



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