Game Plan: How to Beat the San Diego Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs will have their hands full this afternoon when they face the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers have an exceptionally talented team both offensively and defensively, and they need this game to stay in the hunt in the AFC.

With a 3-4 record, this game is a must win for the Chargers. They absolutely cannot afford to lose this game. Conversely, the Chiefs are 4-2 and a half game behind the Denver Broncos. If the Chiefs win this game, they'll have a 2-1 division record with all the remaining divisional games at Arrowhead. For the Chiefs to be considered a legitimate contender in the AFC, the Chiefs should win this game. Look for a high scoring affair, with a definite playoff feel.

Offensively, the Chiefs and the Chargers are very similar in skill position personnel. Both teams utilize a strong running game, a game breaking tight end and tough, smart quarterbacks who distribute the football very well. Defensively, the Chiefs are still developing, although the team has been taking major steps forward in recent weeks. The Chargers have a speedy defense that covers the field very well, making it tough to gain yards and move the chains.

Here are the keys to the Chiefs winning the game:

OFFENSE
Establish Priest Holmes Early - The Chargers run a 3-4 defense, and while they have talented, fast linebackers, the Chiefs have the advantage when running to the outside. The Chiefs have offensive linemen who operate very well in space, and should be able to open running lanes on the perimeter. No running back in the NFL runs better on the outside than Priest Holmes, who should be able to use his vision and quickness to gain major yardage on the Chargers.

Spread the Ball Around - Although tight end Tony Gonzalez will get a lot of looks, quarterback Trent Green will need to distribute the football around to the other receivers to keep the Chargers secondary off balance. San Diego's defensive backs can cover well, but tend to have breakdowns at times. If Green can spot the open man, and get the ball to the receivers in a position to make big plays, the Chiefs will have success in the passing game.

Score, Score, Score - Historically, Chiefs/Chargers games are high scoring affairs. If the defense stumbles, the offense must be prepared to carry the load and score touchdowns. While the Chiefs have not been as prolific in the red zone this season as they have been in recent years, the Chiefs are going to have to come away with touchdowns once they cross the twenty yard line. Even in defeat, the Chargers have proved they can score points when it counts and can get away from a team in a hurry if they're not careful.

DEFENSE >
Stop LaDainian Tomlinson - Tomlinson is the league best running back, and to be honest, it's not even close. Even after being shut down by the Philadelphia Eagles, he's still the second leading rusher in the NFL. Tomlinson has been torching NFL defenses all season long, will be looking for revenge after being held to 7 yards on 17 carries last week.

Stop LaDainian Tomlinson - The Chargers have other weapons on offense, particularly tight end Antonio Gates, who's virtually unstoppable on the goal line. Still, Tomlinson is the engine that makes the San Diego's offense go. The Eagles committed to stopping Tomlinson last week, at times putting nine in the box against the prolific young running back. The Chargers scrambled to move the chains, and didn't get on track until later in the third quarter. If the Chiefs stop Tomlinson, chances are they'll stop the Chargers offense.

Okay Just Try to Contain Tomlinson - Of course, stopping Tomlinson is easier said than done. Plus, if the Chiefs commit safeties to the line of scrimmage, it puts tremendous pressure on cornerbacks Eric Warfield and Patrick Surtain, who must hold coverage on the outside. If they allow the Chargers to get the ball to the receivers consistently, it won't matter if Tomlinson is able to run Sunday afternoon.

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