A Chief concern

The praise is coming in heaps, now. The Chargers have proven they have what it takes to hang with the league's elite and to utterly dominate its more novice squads, such as the 49ers. But before they set their sights on post-season grandeur, they must take care of business on the road against a very game Chiefs team.

The Chiefs are coming off a humiliating 45-7 loss against the Steelers. They have a losing record and are ranked No. 26 in total offense. However, they have more than enough talent to scare any team, even one as good as the Chargers.

In fact, the Chiefs are mirror images of the Chargers in many ways. Their offense features all-stars Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez, the only running back-tight end combo that compares to the Chargers' talented duo. On defense, Derrick Johnson and Patrick Surtain lead a defense that ranks in the league's top half in both yards allowed and points against.

"We look forward to the challenge this week with Kansas City," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

That challenge is only exasperated by the way both teams played last week. The Chargers picked up a 29-point victory over the 49ers, despite giving up 19 first-half points and rushing for less than three yards per carry. Bottom line: the scoreboard made the Chargers look better than they actually were.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, were force-fed a 38-point loss by the Steelers. Now, they must prepare with the mentality that Sunday's game is a must-win.

"You look at most teams that had that kind of circumstance occur there is a dramatic change in the subsequent week," Schottenheimer said.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, emotion and desperation can only account for so much. The winner of Sunday's game will be the team that plays better, not the one that needs it most.

It is debatable whether or not the Chiefs have enough talent to pull off an upset over the visiting Chargers. They will be asking Kevin Sampson to block Shaun Phillips, meaning Damon Huard is likely in for a rough day. "When you look at San Diego they're very physical on defense, have a very good active front seven," Kansas City head coach Herman Edwards admitted. "They can rush you with four guys; they don't really have to blitz a lot. They've got some very high picks there in Merriman, Castillo, Phillips, Williams. They have 21 sacks and 17 of those are by those four players. So, they can bring pressure."

And things aren't any easier on the other side of the ball, where Sammy Knight is about as likely to shut down Antonio Gates as Terrell Owens is to decline an interview request.

This game means a lot to the Chargers, too, so they are unlikely to take their division rivals lightly.

"It is a divisional opponent and like one-and-a-half games," Schottenheimer said. "We are in a situation where we are starting to play pretty consistent throughout but it will be a formidable task. Anytime you go to Arrowhead you have the Chiefs to beat and the crowd as well."

Unless that crowd can block and tackle, it is likely to leave disappointed.


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