Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) steps back to throw against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
FACING THE CHIEFS
The Chargers will try to snap a three-game losing streak Sunday, when they face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
"We are going to have to play a lot better than we have played the last couple of weeks to go get a win," said quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the league, with 36 sacks and 24 takeaways. Kansas City is also first in the league in stopping third-down conversions.
“Having played against them for the last four years twice a year, you have a good feel for their personnel," said head coach Mike McCoy. "They wreak havoc on quarterbacks. One other thing they do a lot is create turnovers. All that is because it’s a good pass rush that forces quarterbacks to make some poor decisions. And when the ball is in the air, or someone is carrying it, they attack it. It will be a good test for us.”
CONFIDENCE IS KEY
The Chiefs finished last season 2-14.
This season, they are 9-1.
Most of the players are the same, but Kansas City upgraded at two key positions: Quarterback (Alex Smith) and head coach (Andy Reid).
Their winning ways have created an X-Factor of sorts, said tight end Antonio Gates.
"I've been playing against some of those guys for quite some times now," he said. "Same guys. For the most part, there's a lot of familiar faces. The only thing I see different now is they're playing with a swagger, with a chip on their shoulder, that they can win football games and they believe they can stop teams. That' something that I see by watching the film. They believe they can cover, they can stop the run. They're flying around, they're high-fiving … that's the same guys, but the confidence is just totally different now."
Arrowhead Stadium is deafening. There's just no other way to put it. Inside, it's a bubble of volume, turned up to the highest degree, pounding in your ears.
It's one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- places to play in the league … but that's also what makes it memorable.
"Going there is the NFL," Rivers said, smiling. "When you go there and play – that atmosphere, those fans and that team. It’s a heck of an NFL football team. Besides Seattle, I don’t know if I’ve been to a place as loud. Every place is loud, but those two standout to be at the top when it comes to noise and how to manage those sort of things.”
Added Gates: "Even when [the Chiefs] were 4-12, it was tough to win at Arrowhead, so I can only imagine now -- sitting at 9-1 -- that energy, that atmosphere is going to be crazy. We just have to go out and try to execute and be precise at what we do."
CLEAN IT UP
The Chargers defense would like to erase the memory of their performance against the Miami Dolphins, which was characterized by missed tackles, blown coverage and penalties (10 for 76 yards).
"It's all just about effort and technique," said safety Eric Weddle. "Guys understand that. We had a really good practice today and I don't think it will be a problem the rest of the year. It just sucks it had to get to this point but that's just life, that's just human nature. You always want to prepare yourself but sometimes, no matter how hard you work, sometimes it just doesn't happen that way."
Added linebacker Thomas Keiser, who was flagged three times (two for jumping offsides and one for a neutral zone infraction):
"We're definitely hard on ourselves about it," he said. "At the same time, it's one of those things you can't get too worked up over, because number one, it hasn't been an issue for us during the season. That was just a single game thing. This week, we're working very hard to make sure it doesn't happen on Sunday."
MUST MUST MUST WIN GAME?
Since the bye, the Chargers have had several "must win" games, particularly against Washington and Miami, where, with wins, they could have at least been in control of their own destiny for a wild card spot.
This may be the last hurrah.
"Our offensive coaching staff has definitely made that known in the locker room, that if you want to make one last push for this thing, this is the game," said tight end Antonio Gates. "I don't know if we have the same room for error at this particular point in the season.
"We know what's at stake. It's hard for a 4-7 team to make the playoffs. Not to say that it can't happen. But we understand that sense of urgency right now."
Return of the Melvin
Linebacker Melvin Ingram practiced today for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in May.
"I feel great," Ingram said. "It’s been a kind of a blessing. Having the opportunity to be hurt, it’s something that sits you down and opens your eyes and lets you know that things can be taken from you at any day. So it’s just a blessing in disguise.”
Ingram remains on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. He now enters a three-week practice window where, by the end, he will either be added to the 53-man roster or placed on injured reserve.
"He’s got a ways to go and I think he’ll tell you the same thing, whether it’s conditioning level or just the techniques," McCoy said. "When you’re out of it for that long it knocks some of the rust off on a daily basis. He worked extremely hard today. He’s been chomping at the bit."