Chiefs at Chargers: 3 Keys to Victory

What both teams have to do to get a win in Carson on Sunday

This is not hyperbole, it’s simple logic:

If the Chargers lose to the Chiefs on Sunday at StubHub Center they will be out of playoff contention.

Sure we will only be two days removed from the final day of summer but the Bolts will be toast. They’ll be 0-3 while the Chiefs are 3-0, putting them already in a deep hole in the toughest division in football. The Broncos and Raiders both have winnable road games (Denver in Buffalo and Oakland in Washington, a game that will be on NBC’s Sunday Night Football).

If they also go to 3-0 the Chargers … who will still have to play four more games against those undefeated teams and 0-2 in the AFC West … will already be three games out in the division AND the Wild Card race.

If that happens have their bugler play Taps at home games for the rest of the year because this season will be O.V.E.R.

Fernando Ramirez takes a look at what the Chargers need to do to stay alive while Derek Togerson examines how the Chiefs can bury their division rivals before World Vegetarian Day (celebrated on October 1).

Chargers Key #1: Stop Hill and Hunt

A lot of analysts are talking about how great Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has played and they are not wrong, but running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill have been machines. They have both started off the season fast. Hunt leads the NFL in rushing with 229 yards and Hill is fourth in receiving yards with 176. Hunt has scored five total touchdowns this season combined, which also leads the NFL. This is easier said than done, but the defense will have to be disciplined and not let either homerun hitter break their tackles.

Chiefs Key #1: Tee Off on the Quarterback

The Chiefs pass rush is pretty darn good. Kansas City has nine sacks already. Only two teams have more and one of them is the Rams who have played one more game. If we’re being honest nobody respects the Chargers running game that averages an AFC-worst 54 yards a game so K.C. is going to focus on getting to Philip Rivers in a hurry. Linebacker Justin Houston is healthy again and spending a lot of time in opposing backfields. He has 3.0 sacks in two games, as does Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones. Rivers has only been sacked twice so far but without the threat of him handing the ball off effectively Kansas City’s defense can dial up the pressure in a big way.

Chargers Key #2: Unleash Hunter Henry

The Chargers said in the offseason that Henry would be a focal part of the offense so far that hasn’t been accurate. Henry so far this season has played in 48% of the snaps, while his mentor Antonio Gates has played 61%. Gates now has the record for most touchdown catches for a tight end and it is time to take a step back. Last week, Henry had seven catches for 80 yards. They need to go to him this week as well because, unfortunately safety Eric Berry tore his Achilles in week 1 vs Patriots and the Chiefs don’t really have a safety that can cover tight ends. Last week, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz had five catches for 93 yards; if the Chargers are going to have any chance in this fight they will need Henry to have a break out game.

Chiefs Key #2: Hit the Big Plays

This is not what you’d expect to hear from an offense run by renowned game manager Alex Smith but the Chiefs have some serious big play ability. Running back Kareem Hunt has scored on a 53-yard run and a 78-yard pass. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has scored on a 75-yard pass. The Chargers are prone to defensive lapses and making mistakes at inopportune times. Kansas City should have a few chances to hit on splash plays. If they take advantage of those opportunities they win going away.

Chargers Key #3: Use More Play-Action, Less Shotgun

It is no secret that the Chargers don’t have a good offensive line, but there is a way to mask it. The Chargers need to stop relying so much on the shotgun and use more play action. According to ProFootballFocus, the Chargers offensive line has allowed 732 pressures from 2014-2016 seasons. The coaches need to stop doing a shotgun formation late draw to running back Melvin Gordon because it isn’t working. They need to let quarterback Philip Rivers go under center and change up between runs and passes. They need to confuse the defense and keep outside linebacker Justin Houston off of Rivers back, who already has three sacks this season.

Chiefs Key #3: Get Off the Field

The Chargers are only converting on 25% of their 3rd downs so far in 2017. But as we saw a week ago against Miami if Rivers starts to find a groove he is still as dangerous as they come. Philip did his part to lead the comeback attempt and was ruthlessly efficient in completing 31 of 39 passes for 331 yards and no turnovers. If you let that guy stay on the field and extend drives you’re asking for trouble, even if the Chargers need to put out an APB to find their running game.

Fernando’s Prediction: Chiefs win 42-24. Chiefs will be on the Hunt and be too much Hill for the Chargers to climb.

Derek’s Prediction: Chiefs win 31-20. The positive for the Bolts will be they won’t get close enough to blow it in the last minute with the field goal unit this week.

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