Insight from the Real Experts: KC vs. SD 2

It is time again for our weekly conversation with the real experts of the Chiefs upcoming opponent, the fan who follows the team day in and day out. The Chiefs encounter the fifth stage of their six-week gauntlet against some of the NFL's elite teams this Saturday by hosting the 9-5 San Diego Chargers.

The Chargers enter the game flying high after slaying this year's NFL giant, the previously undefeated Indianapolis Colts, 26-17. The Chiefs suffered their second humiliating loss on national TV of the season by being dominated by the New York Giants 27-17 along with a record setting performance by running back Tiki Barber.

The Chiefs are not completely out of the playoff picture, but they have been regulated to the long shot category. In order to participate in games the weekend of January 7th and 8th, the Chiefs must beat the Chargers this week and the Cincinnati Bengals next week. They also need the Cleveland Browns or the Detroit Lions to upset the Pittsburgh Steelers and their archrival, the Denver Broncos to defeat the Chargers next week. It's a long shot, but not impossible.

Our panel of Chargers experts consists two Charger fans we spoke with before the previous contest between the two teams:
• Matthew Berg, a 33 year-old pastor from Champaign, Illinois, a Chargers fan since the Winslow/Fouts Coryell era.
• Kirk Hart, a 33 year-old network administrator from Mastic, New York, a die-hard Chargers fan since 1990 when they drafted Junior Seau.

Our panel of experts believes the Chargers passing attack led by Drew Brees, Antonio Gates and Keenan McCardell along with the running of Ladainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner will be too much for the Chiefs defense to handle. They also feel that their rush defense, ranked number one in the NFL, will be able to shut down Larry Johnson.

Question: What will be the Chargers offensive attack on the Chiefs defense that the Chiefs will not be able to stop and why?

Answer: "I still think the passing game with Gates McCardell and the young Vincent Jackson will be hard to stop. Adding in some LT and Michael Turner and the Chiefs have a very hard task at hand." – Kirk Hart

"Gates, and McCardell and my surprise dark horse pick for big play(s) this week (Vincent Jackson). I believe Brees will get it done in the air this week, especially after establishing the run in the first half. The Chiefs have a potential answer to Gates in Derrick Johnson, but McCardell and Jackson will makes plays on Saturday." – Matthew Berg

Question: What aspect of the Chiefs defense will be successful against the Chargers offense?

Answer: "If they blitz Brees they maybe able to contain them but I don't think they will be able to stop the Chargers offense." – Kirk Hart

"LT has been hobbled the last 3 weeks, and was kept out the 4th quarter against Indy. I see the Chiefs slowing down our running game, not shutting it down." – Matthew Berg

Analysis: Charger fans have good reason to expect Brees, Gates and McCardell to have big games against the Chiefs. The Chiefs pass defense ranks 31st in the NFL giving up over 240 yards passing per game. In the first match up between the two teams this year Gates had 10 receptions for 145 yards and three touchdowns. McCardell added five receptions for 73 yards. The Chiefs must get pressure on Brees if they hope to slow down the Chargers passing attack. The problem has been that when the Chiefs blitz, they don't get to the quarterback. When they don't blitz they don't cover well. The front seven must do a better job of getting to the quarterback this week.

It must also be noted that the Chiefs run defense must regain its swagger this year. Through the first 13 games this year, the Chiefs defense had been strong against the run and a very solid tackling team. None of that was evident in the loss to the Giants. The Chiefs were exploited last week by misdirection plays and poor tackling. If the Chiefs are to come away with a victory on Saturday they will need to be disciplined and fundamentally sound.

Question: How will the Chargers defense be successful against Larry Johnson and the Chiefs play action passing attack?

Answer: "I still feel that no team can run on us so because of this the play action does not work on them as well as most teams. The Chargers front seven is very, very good and after shutting down James last week I hope that they can do the same thing to Larry Johnson. "– Kirk Hart

"Getting underneath and over the top help against Gonzalez to slow him down will be important. The front 7 can slow down the LJ train, we are awesome against the run (ask edge!!!)" - Matthew Berg

Question: What aspect of the Chargers defense do you hope will be hidden from and not exposed by the Chiefs offensive game plan?

Answer: "The secondary. If the Chargers blitz like they did last week and the first time they played each other then Trent is in for a long game. If the Chiefs O-line can find a way to stop the blitz then the Chargers are in for a long game. The thing is that the secondary for the chargers have gotten better since the last time they played. "– Kirk Hart

"Miami definitely beat us on some big plays by letting the QB get out of the pocket, and we were susceptible to the play action...our pass D has holes, which Trent Green could exploit if he has time to throw." - Matthew Berg

Analysis: Over the past six weeks Larry Johnson has established himself as an elite running back in the NFL. That was validated this week with his selection to the Pro Bowl after only starting seven games this season. The Chiefs should initially be able to use that reputation and threat to come out with play action passing. Much like they did against the Broncos three weeks ago, the Chiefs need to use the pass to set up the run.

In the game against the Chargers earlier this season, Trent Green threw for over 300 yards in the 2nd half. 300 yards in one half. The Chiefs will have opportunities to make plays in the passing game and play action should help provide Green time to find receivers. Eddie Kennison and Tony Gonzalez both had about 100 yards receiving and should find open spaces in the Chargers secondary. The Chargers pass defense ranks 28th in the NFL yielding 237 yards per game.

Conclusion: You may be a frustrated Chiefs fan today, but you have to admit this is exciting. It is week 16 of the NFL season and the Chiefs are playing a meaningful game at Arrowhead against a division rival with major playoff implications. As we noted earlier, the Chiefs playoffs hopes are slim, but not nonexistent.

A win over the Chargers this week drastically changes the playoff landscape heading into the final week of the season. The Chiefs are 5-1 at home this season have played 5 ½ games of quality football at Arrowhead. The Chiefs defense must attack the Chargers backfield to contain the running game and harass Drew Brees. The offensive line must provide protection for Trent Green and sustain blocks to keep Larry Johnson on his streak of 100+ yards alive. It will also be important for the Chiefs to avoid drive killing or drive sustaining penalties.

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