Passing Fancy

Considering how late it is in the year, the Chargers are relatively healthy. One of the spots where they are down a starter is defensive end, but Jacques Cesaire and Ryon Bingham are doing a good job holding down Luis Castillo's spot. They are doing it by rotating in and out to stay fresh.

In the secondary, Drayton Florence is being used as the nickel back and covering the receiver in the slot. Florence has taken a back seat to Antonio Cromartie as far as starting, but if the run defense is strong Sunday, that should put the Chiefs into passing situations that will require three cornerbacks, with Florence seeing a lot of playing time. And Florence will be eager to make a play and try to get his starting job back.


--QB Philip Rivers is perfect in the red zone. In his career, he has 20 touchdown passes and no interceptions inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

--OLB Shawne Merriman has had two sacks in a game nine times, including two against the Chiefs on Oct. 30, 2005.

--TE Antonio Gates had three 100-yard receiving games in the first five games, then didn't have another one until last Sunday. Gates is one 100-yard game from setting a career high for a season.

--WR Chris Chambers usually plays well against the Chiefs. In three career games against Kansas City when with the Dolphins, he caught 11 passes for 256 yards and his career-long 77-yard touchdown.

--K Nate Kaeding hopes to carry his hot streak into Sunday's game. Kaeding had four field goals Sunday, and for the first time he had two 40-plus-yard successful kicks in one game.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson has had five of his 40 100-yard rushing games against the Chiefs. Of his two 100-yard games this year, both have come against AFC West teams, including the earlier meeting against the Chiefs, when he rushed for 132 yards.

GAME PLAN: This should be the week defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell takes the gloves off his attacking defense and send his players after green QB Brodie Croyle. If the Chargers can be stout against the run and force Croyle into obvious passing situations, Cottrell should turn Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips lose. The Chargers had four sacks last week and need to reclaim their status as one of the defenses that gets after quarterbacks. San Diego led the league with 61 sacks last year, but Cottrell hasn't been as aggressive as his predecessor, Wade Phillips. The time is now to change that philosophy, especially against a Chiefs front line that is patched together.


Chargers pass protection, with LT Marcus McNeill, vs. Chiefs pass rush, with Pro Bowl RDE Jared Allen -- Much has been made of QB Philip Rivers' slump in his second year as a starter, but the same could be said for McNeill. After a sensational rookie year in which he made the Pro Bowl, McNeill's play hasn't been as consistent as it was last year, when he gave up only two sacks. On Sunday, he has to hold off Allen, who has 9.5 sacks, tied for fourth in the NFL. Allen also has deflected a career-best 11 passes with his push toward the pocket and has four tackles for losses on running plays. McNeill probably will get some help on the edge from a tight end, and the Chargers would be well-advised to have a running back at least chipping on the hard-charging Allen if they want to develop some downfield routes.

Chargers pass defense, with CBs Quentin Jammer and new starter Antonio Cromartie, vs. Chiefs passing game, featuring QB Brodie Croyle making his second NFL start and rookie WR Dwayne Bowe -- The Chargers got torched earlier this year by then-QB Damon Huard and Bowe; Bowe had eight receptions for 164 yards, which included a 51-yard scoring catch. Jammer is back after a strained hamstring limited his play before he returned to the starting lineup last week. Cromartie is in his second game as the starter after filling in for the injured Jammer. The Chargers can't let Croyle get comfortable completing the outside routes or it will be a long day for the linebackers and safeties, who also have to keep an eye on Pro Bowl TE Tony Gonzalez.

Chargers passing game, featuring TE Antonio Gates and WR Chris Chambers, vs. Chiefs secondary and linebackers, including LB Donnie Edwards -- The Chargers showed last week how scary they can be when Chambers is a threat on the outside. Gates was wide open on his two scoring catches, in part because the defenders couldn't cheat toward the middle of the field with Chambers out wide. And it was a key to Chambers' scoring catch that he did it after a wink and a nod toward Rivers as they both saw the same coverage they could exploit. The Chiefs will have Edwards, the NFL's leading active linebacker in interceptions, clogging the middle, and he certainly knows how the Chargers like to use Gates, his former teammate. The Chiefs have to decide if they want to put a safety or linebacker on Gates' routes, and if so, how they will handle Chambers out wide.

INJURY IMPACT: DT Jamal Williams, as his is custom, didn't practice Wednesday. He is fine and will play Sunday. ... DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is out three more weeks.

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