Game Scout: Chargers vs. Chiefs

The San Diego Chargers seek to stave off elimination as they travel to Kansas City to take on the 2-11 Chiefs. looks at the latest injury news, keys to the game and scoop from both camps.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/14/08
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots)

SERIES: 97th regular-season meeting. The Chiefs lead the series 50-45-1. The Chargers traditionally have a tough go playing in Kansas City. They have lost 10 of their past 13 and nine of their past 11 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers' biggest win over the Chiefs came in the 1992 wild-card playoff game in Qualcomm Stadium, where the Chargers prevailed 17-0.

PREDICTION: Chargers 27-23


QB Philip Rivers
Harry How/Getty

The Chargers rushed for 158 yards in their last game, and will let RB LaDainian Tomlinson take aim at a run defense allowing 161.8 yards per game. The more successful L.T. is, the better QB Philip Rivers is set up to attack a very young secondary that picked him off twice but also gave up 316 passing yards in the first meeting. The Chiefs have just six sacks, so Rivers will have plenty of time in the pocket.

The Chiefs have averaged 22.6 points the past seven games with QB Tyler Thigpen running the offense primarily out of a short shotgun formation called the Pistol. The important thing is Kansas City is still able to control the clock and keep RB Larry Johnson heavily involved. Thigpen threw three touchdowns in the first meeting - without Johnson - as the Chargers managed just one sack, but San Diego is getting far more pressure under new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.


Chargers: OLB Marques Harris (hamstring) is uncertain; FB Mike Tolbert (shoulder) is likely out.

Chiefs: CB Maurice Leggett (shoulder) looks doubtful; C Rudy Niswanger (knee) is expected to be replaced by Wade Smith; RG Adrian Jones (ankle) is expected to play.

FAST FACTS: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson needs two rushing touchdowns to surpass Marcus Allen (123) for the second most in NFL history. ... Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez has 37 catches for 515 yards in the past five meetings.



--SS Clinton Hart (neck) didn't practice Thursday and that's not a good sign after he was a limited participant on Wednesday. If he can't go, Steven Gregory would get the start. It figures Gregory will get some playing time either way.

LB Jyles Tucker
Harry How/Getty

--OLB Jyles Tucker (hamstring) has been bothered by this for most of the second half. He practiced Wednesday but was limited on Thursday. His game is his burst so he could be compromised on Sunday.

--FB Mike Tolbert (shoulder) didn't work Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Rookie Jacob Hester would get the start if he can't go.

--LB Anthony Waters (hamstring) didn't work Thursday and could be down this week.

--DT Jamal Williams was back at work Thursday after using a rest day on Wednesday. He will start Sunday.


--C Rudy Niswanger did not practice for a second day Thursday and doesn't appear likely to play against San Diego. Wade Smith will move from right guard, where he has started the last four games, to center.

--RG Adrian Jones is expected to return to his starting position after missing the previous four games with an ankle injury. He has had full workouts on both Wednesday and Thursday.

--CB Pat Surtain did only limited work again Wednesday, which isn't good as the Chiefs could really use him this week with rookie nickel back Maurice Leggett questionable with a shoulder injury. Surtain, a veteran starter in the first two games, has played in only five games this season -- with very limited participation in several -- while nursing a quad injury.

--CB Maurice Leggett's string of touchdowns in his last two games -- one on a special teams return, the other on an interception return last week in Denver -- looks in jeopardy after he was limited in a second workout Thursday with a shoulder injury.

--LB Pat Thomas appears ready to return to action after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury. He's had full participation in the past two workouts, but when he returns it will be as a reserve as Derrick Johnson has been moved into his Mike backer position.

--RT Damion McIntosh did not practice Thursday while battling an illness, but the Chiefs think he'll be playing this week against San Diego.



The Chargers wrapped up an early practice Thursday with hopes of doing something special Sunday.

The makings of a special season were likely squandered long ago. The Chargers need to win three straight and hope the AFC West-leading Broncos lose three straight to sniff the playoffs.

But a win Sunday in Kansas City would complete an accomplishment not seen lately: back-to-back victories at Arrowhead Stadium. The last time they did it was 1988-89.

And the same Chargers quarterback hasn't turned the feat since the Dan Fouts-led Chargers consecutive games in Kansas City. And that was in 1980-81.

Philip Rivers gets a shot on Sunday to match Fouts as the Chargers try to keep the season alive.

"It's always a tough place to play," Rivers said. "If you don't start fast, the fans get into it and make it tough. It's loud and they really get behind them. We need to come out strong and build some momentum Sunday."

TE Antonio Gates
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

Rivers might do that by leaning on the running game and looking tight end Antonio Gates' way. The former was done in the opening stages of the win over the Raiders. The latter hasn't been done of late.

Gates hasn't caught a touchdown pass in over a month in the last time these two old rivals matched up.

In the recent win over the Raiders, Gates didn't even have a catch.

But Gates said he contributes regardless of how many receptions he may or may not have.

"You might not see me catching touchdowns but I might grade out using the right techniques, being mentally sharp," he said. "There are different aspects that you can look at when you look at a player and his success in this league."

To be successful on what figures to be a chilly, windy day at Arrowhead, the Chargers will likely need a big day from Gates. He's ready.


The Chiefs have scored just 23 offensive points -- their defense and special teams having kicked in the other 14 -- in their last two games, ones in which receiver Mark Bradley has been either very limited or missing with a calf injury.


Sure, to a degree. But there's also no question that the Kansas City offense started to show marked improvement shortly after Bradley saw his first action for Kansas City -- as a starter, no less -- on Oct. 19 against Tennessee.

WR Mark Bradley
Jeff Gross/Getty

OK, so that 34-10 smacking by the Titans in that first game didn't go so well for anybody with the Chiefs. But the following week, on the road against the Jets, Kansas City began a run of six games in seven weeks in which they were in position to win the game in the fourth quarter.

Don't diminish Bradley's role in four of those games. In providing new quarterback Tyler Thigpen with the third receiver (along with tight end Tony Gonzalez and receiver Dwayne Bowe) the team had been lacking, Bradley provided a stretch-the-field threat as evidenced by his long receptions of 56, 45, 31 and 30 yards.

"He's given us a boost as another guy to go to at the receiver position," coach Herm Edwards said Thursday. "He's another guy who makes plays, and we've missed him these last two weeks. He's a guy who gets open, and can go vertical down the field. We need to get him back."

Edwards thinks his team has "a shot" at getting Bradley back this week for San Diego, a team against whom he had his best game as a Chief, a nine-catch, 81-yard day on Nov. 9. Bradley has been limited in workouts on Wednesday and Thursday.

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