This week the Chiefs travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers on Sunday. San Diego enters the game with a 3-4 record. The national media has labeled the Chargers as the best 3-4 team in the history of the NFL because their four losses have been by a combined total of 12 points. The Chargers are one play in each of those games away from a 7-0 record.
Our panel of Chargers experts consists of the following:
• Matthew Berg, a 32 year-old pastor from Champaign, Illinois, a Chargers fan since the Winslow/Fouts Coryell era.
• Erik Eveleigh, 24 year-old law student/legal analyst from Los Angeles, CA, a Chargers fan for 16 years.
• Kirk Hart, a 33 year-old network administrator from Mastic, New York, a die-hard Chargers fan since 1990 when they drafted Junior Seau.
Our panel of experts believes the Chargers balanced offensive attack of Ladainian Tomlinson (arguably the best running back in the league), Drew Brees, Antonio Gates, and Keenan McCardell will be too much for the Chiefs defense to handle. While they are becoming growingly frustrated with the sometimes conservative leadership of Marty Schottenheimer, they believe the Chargers will be able to put points on the board this week. It is the feeling of our panel that their offense will be able to outscore the Chiefs offense leading to a Chargers victory.
Question: What aspect of the Chargers attack do the Chiefs not have an answer for?
Answer: "I think that it will be the Offense. The Chargers O is just too balanced with LT, Gates, McCardell and Brees." – Kirk Hart
"The Chiefs will have to choose their battles. It is very difficult to stop both Ladainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates from having productive days. The Chiefs will have to choose which to attempt to stop. In my opinion the Chiefs do not have an answer for Antonio Gates due to the necessity to place 8 men in the box to hold Tomlinson at bay, and because of the stellar play of Keenan McCardell requiring the Chiefs best cover guy." – Erik Eveleigh
"Obviously, it's our offense, our trifecta of Brees, LT and Gates should get us lots of points come Sunday! The chief defense is improved, but when we are executing, nobody can stop us. Its only when we beat ourselves that it costs us." – Matthew Berg
Analysis: There is no debating the offensive firepower of the San Diego Chargers. Ladainian Tomlinson is fourth in the league with over 650 yards rushing and second in the league with 11 touchdowns. Gates is a tight end with wide receiver abilities and McCardell is a crafty veteran who makes plays and big catches. The Chiefs defense will be severely tested this week.
That defense has yet to establish itself as a playoff caliber defense, but it has made progress the last two games. In the Redskins game the defense showed a physical toughness and the ability to create turnovers. In the Miami game, the defense was stifling outside of long touchdown run on a broken tackle to begin the second half and a meaningless touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the game. The key will be the ability of the front four to reestablish the line of scrimmage one or two yards into the Chargers backfield.
Question: What aspect of the Chiefs concerns you the most?
Answer: "Their offense. With that running game the Chiefs have with Priest and Johnson it is very dangerous. Also the middle of our defense, even though it is getting better, is still a little weak and they have the second best tight end in the game. "– Kirk Hart
"My concern in looking at the Chiefs is that they possess the same qualities the Charger's offense possesses. That being a quality Tight End and a stellar Running Back and an offense led by a steady Quarterback. I do not think the Charger's secondary can maintain the passing game of the Chiefs from going bonkers and at the least keeping pace with the Chargers. The Chargers are very thin in the secondary. They have two of their top 3 Cornerbacks injured and likely inactive. They will have to rely on a Fourth string CB and a lame duck FS as the nickel back through out the game. That is worrisome to say the least" – Erik Eveleigh
"We haven't come up with an effective solution against TE's this year (LJ Smith had another good game against us last week). Gonzalez had two good games against us last year, 22 catches for almost 250 yards, so we need to find a way to minimize his damage. Gonzalez will be the key to sustaining drives for the Chiefs; we need to minimize his converting on 3rd downs." - Matthew Berg
Analysis: The Chiefs offense seems to be getting back to its point producing form. Against the Redskins the Chiefs had 4 scoring drives of more than 50 yards and showed quick strike ability with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Priest Holmes. The Chiefs followed that up with 4 more scoring drives over 50 yards against Miami with one of those drives being accomplished in two plays.
As Matthew Berg noted, Tony Gonzalez has had big games against San Diego in the past and is starting to find his groove this season. I'll argue with Kirk Hart that Gates is the best tight end in the league. Gonzalez has performed at a pro bowl level over several years. Gates has had one year at that level. Gates is good, really good, but he's still behind Gonzalez in the tight end rankings until he his accomplishments span several years.
The Chargers secondary is banged up, but the Chiefs will likely be without starting wide receiver Sammie Parker. Again, the battle at the line of scrimmage will be key. If Willie Roaf and the rest of the Chiefs offensive line can open holes for Holmes and Larry Johnson and provide Trent Green time to attack that secondary, the Chiefs should be able to put points on the board.
Question: Why have the Chargers had problems closing out games in the 4th quarter this season?
Answer: "All of our losses have come down to not executing on a few key plays that cost us those games. Brees has made some mistakes in the Dallas and Pittsburgh games, and threw a horrible pick to Champ Bailey to lose us the Donkey game. He did excellent against the Eagles, obviously special teams and the Caldwell fumble cost us there." – Matthew Berg
"For as good as the Chargers are, they are still a very young team, and a team for the most part who collectively have not been in a position to be expected to win. They have not figured out how to close a game out because recent Chargers history has not exposed them to it and they have not learned how to acquire that killer instinct to put a team away." – Erik Eveleigh
"Most people will say it is because of the play calling and I tend to agree with that. Marty and company sits on the lead when they should go for the kill. It is the same with Wade Phillips when we get the lead and stop people all day by blitzing they just seem to stop and play cover two." – Kirk Hart
This is a huge game and a tremendous opportunity for the Chiefs. A win in San Diego could effectively knock the Chargers out of playoff contention. A win by the Chiefs would mean that San Diego would be 3-5 and three games behind the AFC West leader in the loss column midway through the season.
The Chargers' loss to Philadelphia last week was not a bad loss. Losing to a super bowl contender on the road is not devastating. However, the manner in which San Diego lost the game may be detrimental to their psyche. The Chargers had the game virtually put away but lost it on a blocked field goal and return for a touchdown. It will be interesting to see how they respond, especially with such a young team.
The Chiefs should expect them to respond with a lot of fight and desire. This is a must win game for the Chargers so there will be no punches pulled. When the Chargers hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night earlier this season, the commentators observed a playoff like atmosphere and energy in the stadium. This game will at a minimum match that intensity. The Chiefs failed to match that level of intensity on a trip to Denver on Monday night in week three of the season. A veteran led team like Kansas City should not make that mistake again. While this is only week 8 of the season this IS a playoff game. The Chiefs need to respond and execute like it is one.
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