Reflections in a Cracked Mirror

The Chargers and Chiefs share the same strengths: dynamic running backs, dominating tight ends and stingy front sevens. They also share the same flaws: underachieving running games, sloppy tackling and a resounding lack of big plays.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/30/07
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Randy Cross

SERIES: 94th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead 49-43-1. The teams split the series last year, with the Chiefs handing the Chargers one of only two losses, 30-27 at Arrowhead, when Lawrence Tynes kicked a late 53-yard field goal. The Chargers dominated at Qualcomm, 20-9, and have won three straight meetings there.

PREDICTION: Chargers 30-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: Chiefs RB Larry Johnson is averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry with defenses loading up to stop the run. QB Damon Huard must respond by connecting on a few early plays downfield to force the Chargers to respect the pass. Another sputtering start and an offense already showing frustration with the play-calling will lack even more confidence.

The Chargers' offense showed signs of life with QB Philip Rivers passing for 306 yards last Sunday. He'll need a similar performance because the Chiefs have watched plenty of film on defenses stacking the run defense to stymie RB LaDainian Tomlinson (2.3 yards per carry). Kansas City is expected to use OLB Donnie Edwards primarily to shadow TE Antonio Gates.

KEY INJURIES:

Chiefs: WR Eddie Kennison (hamstring) will miss his third consecutive game; Johnson (sore hamstring) will play.

Chargers: RT Shane Olivea (back) and DE Luis Castillo (foot) will play; ILB Matt Wilhelm (calf) appears unlikely to play.

FAST FACTS: LT Damion McIntosh spent his first four seasons with the Chargers, starting 37 games...Chiefs OLB Donnie Edwards leads active NFL players with 39 career takeaways...Chargers TE Antonio Gates has eight touchdown catches in six games against the Chiefs.

CHIEFS PERSONNEL NEWS:

--WR Dwayne Bowe, who has caught both of Kansas City's touchdowns in three games, will start a third consecutive game with veteran Eddie Kennison sidelined again by a hamstring injury. When Kennison does return, Bowe could be moved to the X position on the side opposite the veteran.

--CB Bennie Sapp did not participate in Thursday's workout. The Chiefs' No. 3 corner and nickel back is not expected to play in San Diego with a sprained ankle.

--CB Dimitri Patterson likely will handle most of Kansas City's nickel back duties against San Diego with Bennie Sapp down and out with an ankle injury.

--LB Donnie Edwards, who went head-to-head against San Diego tight end Antonio Gates for five years at Chargers practices, likely will draw heavy coverage duties against the Chargers top receiver back in his home town of San Diego this week.

INSIDE CHIEFS CAMPS:

Larry Johnson missed a second straight day of workouts Thursday with a sore hamstring, but the Chiefs still believe he'll be able to play Sunday in San Diego.

That's a good bet, especially with LaDainian Tomlinson playing in the same game for the Chargers.

LJ, you see, openly admires LT, the guy who beat him for the NFL rushing lead last year when Johnson ran for 1,789 yards. To put his skills on display twice annually in games in which Tomlinson also plays is an opportunity Johnson will not let himself miss because of a sore hammy.

"I watched him when he broke the record for touchdowns. I watch LT all the time because he usually plays (west coast) games after me," Johnson admitted this week. "Of course, I watch all the tapes when he plays against (division rivals) Denver and Oakland, but I have an interest in LaDainian. I can feel and understand what he's going through right now."

This year, Johnson has only 10 more yards (140) in three games than does Tomlinson. The NFL's most highly paid backs are ranking 29th and 33rd, respectively, among all league rushers after three weeks. Both are experiencing similar frustrations.

Johnson is especially frustrated by his mere 2.8-yard rushing average.

"Right after that 2.8 you can put 'failure,' you don't even put your name," he said. "It's hard for me to go from what I've done in the last couple years to be brought down to that. That's why I don't think people understand why I get frustrated. It's that I put so much pressure on myself to make sure I'm successful. I have a lot more pride than to be related to a 2.8 average or a 47-yard game."

So no, LJ isn't going to miss this week's game in Qualcomm Stadium.

"He's not hurting to the point that he can't run; he's just sore," said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. "What we don't want to do is put him in position where he really hurts the hamstring. People get sore hamstrings at times, so we're resting him."


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