Chargers Gameday Primer

In the last seven games played at Qualcomm between the Chargers and Chiefs, the total winning margin has been 26 points or 3.71 per game.

Winning in San Diego seems to be a leading indicator of Kansas City's chances for making the playoffs. In the team's 13 seasons of post-season appearances, they won in San Diego in 11 of them. And a win on Sunday will cripple the Chargers, pushing them to 3-5.

"I would say you look around the league and they are the best 3-4 team in the league," Chiefs' quarterback Trent Green said. "At 3-4 they are better than a lot of teams who have winning records. We are not taking them lightly at all. We understand the battles they have been in and the tough games they have had and how close they ought to be to 7-0."

On Offense:

There is no doubt that getting LaDainian Tomlinson running room is critical. The success of his game is often the predicating factor behind victory.

The offensive line, much maligned at various stages of the year, will face the number eight rushing defense in the league – and they will likely be without Nick Hardwick, the man behind the line calls.

If the Chiefs bring the house and leave man coverage on the outside, it will be up to Drew Brees to connect early, deep and often to soften the coverage.

But the Kansas City secondary isn't nearly as capable as Philadelphia's. The Chiefs are ranked 30th against the pass and if they blitz like the Eagles did, Brees is confident he can find the hole to exploit.

"There is risk/reward when you blitz," Brees said. "You are brining in people on the pass rush and now leaving an area open in coverage. Guys out in the open with one less guy to tackle him – that works in our favor."

Getting the ball to Antonio Gates, lined up against the linebackers and safeties, will again be important. But the work of the receivers deep in the secondary could blow this thing open for the running game.

Tomlinson sees the Chiefs as an improved group, particularly on defense. His comments are exactly the way he has felt about his own team's changing identity.

"They are playing a lot better and brought in quality guys. They are more disciplined and making a lot of plays."

The Chiefs have always had a solid offense and with an improving defense it makes for a far more competitive team.

On Defense:

This is a three-pronged attack that begins with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson and continues down the line with guards Will Shields and Brian Waters. The pair of Pro Bowl guards will be instrumental in chipping on Jamal Williams and getting to the second level to block San Diego's linebackers. Success here, which is usually the case, means the talented tandem is getting their yards in chunks.

"That offensive line is the best offensive line in football," head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I don't see any diminishing in play."

The offensive line is a big part of the offense but it is the backs that have the vision and explosiveness to get through the holes.

Holmes has gained 413 yards this year and Johnson has rushed for 344 yards. Between them they have ten rushing touchdowns.

"They are both good backs," said outside linebacker Steve Foley – who may sit this game out with an abdominal injury. "You can't think that once you get one in the backfield you can relax a little more.

"They are some downhill runners. Once they see light they are going to exploit it. It will be important for us to get 11 guys around that ball."

Holmes has also caught 18 balls out of the backfield. And his presence and threat along with Tony Gonzalez propels the aerial attack, opening up the deeper routes on the sidelines as the defensive pockets collapse on the tight end and running backs.

Making matters worse for the Chargers' secondary, quarterback Trent Green finds a way to get everyone involved. Versus Miami, he hit nine different receivers. Cutting out the big play, as they did against Philadelphia, will bring victory at home.

On Special Teams:

Each week it seems a different gaffe in this area of the game has led to points. When coaches talk about a complete game, it takes into account the play of special teams and the various parts of the kicking and return game. With games so closely decided between these teams, this will again be a difference maker.

Having a kick blocked and subsequently returned for a touchdown is rare but the basic fundamentals of football were not followed. The questionable part of this whole thing was the reason Foley was on the field in the first place with his abdominal injury clouding his mind. His presence on the defensive side of the field was far more important.

Looking ahead, Dante Hall is still with the Chiefs and has returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score. Maintaining gaps and not giving him room to maneuver to find the gaps is on the agenda for kickoffs and hang time from Mike Scifres will be a staple of the punting game.

Scifres also performed some field goal kicking during practice this week, in case a bad back keeps Nate Kaeding off the field. Either way, coach Schottenheimer figures to play it safe on field goals and only kick from inside 40, unless absolutely necessary.

Darren Sproles will take over the punt return duties again and his speed and playmaking ability, particularly at home, has the potential to bring the crowd to its feet and keep them there for the duration of the game. He has broken a few long runbacks but has missed that last step to breakaway from the last tackler. A return that goes the distance is coming. Which week will it be?

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