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Bolts to Face Battered Chiefs

Fast start, turnovers a mutual focus

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers is covered by Brandon Flowers #24 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 12, 2010 in San Diego, California.

    As disappointing as it was to commit four turnovers and lose to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the San Diego Chargers can at least tell themselves that things aren't as bad as they are with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    A season after ending the Chargers' run of four straight AFC West titles, the Chiefs (0-2) are a mess, burdened by blown knees, blunders and blowouts.

    They've lost a high-profile player to a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in each of the last three games. It started with tight end Tony Moeaki in their exhibition finale, then continued with Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry in the opener and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles in last week's debacle in Detroit. Each is lost for the year.

    They've done a lousy job of taking care of the ball, having committed nine turnovers already, against only two takeaways. That's why it's no surprise the Chiefs were routed 41-7 at home by Buffalo then 48-3 by the Lions.

    Now they've got to travel for Sunday's game against the Chargers (1-1), who have turnover issues of their own but did manage to tidy up a few messes and win their opener against Minnesota. The Bolts are still somewhat miffed at Kansas City for knocking them off what they think is their rightful perch atop the AFC West, and irritated at themselves for going only 3-3 in the division and missing the playoffs last year.

    The Chiefs have been so awful going back even to their last two games of 2010 that their division title seems like a mirage.

    "I just want to refrain from really making judgments out of a lot of things right now until, you know, we get a little further down the road," coach Todd Haley said. "Everybody on this team needs to play better, starting with the quarterback, and he knows that. He's excited about the challenge and that's what we're going to do. But it's not just him. It's not just anybody."

    So that would seem to indicate that it's everybody, although Matt Cassel is an easy culprit after throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in two games. Last year, he was picked off only seven times.

    "I think the No. 1 thing we haven't done this year that we did last year was take care of the football," Cassel said. "It starts with me. If you're in the minus column at the end of the day, you're going to end up with an L. That alone will help this team."

    San Diego's Philip Rivers can feel his pain. Rivers also has been picked off four times and lost a fumble. Turnovers ruined any chance the Chargers had against the Patriots, and Rivers had three of them. In two games, the Chargers have six turnovers and one takeaway.

    The Chargers and Chiefs can talk all they want about trying to limit turnovers, but they still have to do something about it.

    Asked what he can do, Rivers said: "Don't throw it to them. That's it. It's that simple. Don't throw the ball. For the most part, I don't throw it to the other team very often. Here in the first two, they've gotten four of them. Two of them, I can't say were unlucky, but a little unfortunate. The other two, they're poor throws. Both of them are down inside the 30 going in."

    The Chargers have also trailed by double digits in the first half of both their games. They rallied against the Vikings to win 24-17, but ran aground against the Patriots.

    Again, Rivers has a simple answer.

    "Score. Score sooner," he said. "You never like to be playing catch-up. It can change the game plan, obviously depending on where you are in the game, and it can make it tough on the defense and both sides of the ball. We certainly want to get going. Again, it's a matter of finishing drives. We haven't necessarily been out of sync. We've got to finish drives and we'll do all we can to get that done. But if we fall 10 behind this week, we're not going to quit. We're still going to try to win the game."

    The Chargers did gain 470 yards against the Patriots. But their retooled defense, under new coordinator Greg Manusky, allowed New England to gain 504 yards, including 423 passing by Brady.

    Moments after that 35-21 loss, Chargers coach Norv Turner said he was "so excited about our football team," a statement that raised eyebrows around the NFL, given the Chargers' continued problem with turnovers and other mistakes.

    Now they get a shot at a team with far more problems, plus a chance to redeem their mediocre performance in the AFC West last year.

    The Chiefs stunned the Chargers in the 2010 opener in Kansas City, and San Diego never had as much as a share of the division lead the rest of the way. San Diego got a bit of revenge when it beat the Chiefs 31-0 on Dec. 12, a game Cassel missed after having an emergency appendectomy.

    Two weeks later, though, the Chargers tanked at Cincinnati and were eliminated from playoff contention.

    One of the big shocks about last season for the Chargers, besides sitting at home in January, was their .500 record in the division, including two losses to Oakland.

    "We know what these kind of games mean," Rivers said. "Like I said, 3-3 last year is not going to get it done. We've got to get off to a great start in the division, and we get a chance to do that this week."