By Curtis Egan
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
<img src="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/160/30995_282wh.jpg" alt="Quarterback Philip Rivers calls out a play as sets under center Nick Hardwick during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 17th, 2006." align="right" height="280" width="282" />Both teams enter the Qualcom stadium this Sunday looking for a desperately needed win. Both teams are off to a disappointing 1-2 start and know that taking a loss to a division rival is not the way to right the ship.
Both teams are beginning to show the strains of a less than expected start. In Kansas City, Chiefs star Running Back, Larry Johnson was vocal in his displeasure in his coaches in an interview recently:
<blockquote>"I learned a long time ago about coaches. They're always going to do what they want to do. It's usually an ego thing rather than trying to be better or trying to get better or trying to listen to input, it's just hard to change a coach's perspective or change an offensive coordinator's plays when this is what they've been used to doing ever since they came into the league."</blockquote>
Reports indicate that the Chiefs are having problems in the locker room and were yelling at one another at half time during their recent game versus the Vikings.
The Chargers are not without their issues as in the game in Green Bay this last weekend Chargers star Running Back LaDanian Tomlinson, and Quarterback Philip Rivers were seen arguing strongly on the sidelines and needed to be separated by Tight End Antonio Gates. Tomlinson who has only 130 yards on 57 carries going into Week 4 is obviously frustrated as well.
Tomlinson recently said that the Chargers needed to forget about last season:
<blockquote>"To be honest with you, I'm sick and tired of talking about last year because this is not last year," Tomlinson said during the Monday press conference. "People get caught up in what we did last year. This is not last year's team. This is this year's team. I'm sick and tired of talking about last year. Because it's a whole different team. We need to focus on this year's team and stop looking backward."</blockquote>
The Chargers are looking to rebound from two back to back, embarrassing losses. One a blow out to the New England Patriots, and the other a game in which the ageless Green Bay Quarterback Brett Favre threw for three touchdowns to tie Dan Marino's career record of 420.
To some it was the manner in which the Chargers lost that raised the alarms. The defense was porous, and at times looked confused, while the offense still couldn't break out Tomlinson and get him in the open to go down the field.
One thing is to be clear, this is a game between division rivals, and the talking will have to be left in the locker room. This will be a smash mouth football game where both teams will seek to get the running game established and pressure the passers.
At this time last season Charger fans were screaming for the death of Matryball, now many fans are calling for its return as the lackluster performances so far have set many into a panic mode. The fact is the Sand Diego Offense starts with Tomlinson and until the lanes start to open the Chargers will not find the success they had last season. But do they need that level of success? On the offensive side of the ball they do unless the defensive team can start to get pressure on the opposing passers. Teams are keeping players in as extra blockers and it appears to be confounding the pass rush the Chargers have been employing thus far.
One team will get closer to righting the ship this weekend. The Chargers are favored by 12 points, but they still need to play the game and the Chiefs are not a team they can look past.
<strong><em>Chargers on Offense:</em></strong>
The Chargers on offense will have to establish the run. They must establish the run to prevent last minute victories and to give the entire unit the confidence it had last season. The Chargers will also have to focus on converting third downs to keep drives alive, currently the Chargers through three games have only converted 17 of 39 third downs. That is a stat they have to start improving upon now.
The offensive line and players left in pass protection will also have to improve their pickups as the Chargers have allowed 7 sacks in three games.
The Chargers will look to work their big tight ends in the middle of the field to try and take advantage of the size difference between them and Kansas City Linebacker, Donnie Edwards. Edwards is an excellent coverage linebacker but is a bit undersized and could be victimized by players like Gates who know how to use their big bodies to shield the balls from defenders.
Kansas City's defense has had success against the Chargers running game. They have held Tomlinson under 70 rushing yards in four of the last five meetings between the two teams. Over the five-game stretch, Tomlinson has averaged 85.4 rushing yards per game.
Tomlinson however, did breakout with a 199-yard performance in the last meeting with the Chiefs, which included a 85-yard TD run. The Chargers will have to use the Chiefs desire to hold Tomlinson to low yardage to open passing opportunities for their big Wide Receivers.
The Chargers are 30-8 when Tomlinson tops the 100-yard barrier, including a streak of 22 consecutive wins. However, Norv Turner owns an 0-5 lifetime record as a head coach against Kansas City, including 4 straight losses as head coach in Oakland and a loss while in Washington.
The Chargers will have to try and minimize mistakes as the Chiefs Defense is coming off a good outing against the Vikings and are good at creating turnovers.
<strong><em>Chargers on Defense: </em></strong>
The Chargers will seek to get their pass rush on track against the Chiefs offense. This will be done to protect the secondary which has been abused while going against some of the better quarterbacks in the league.
They like the Chargers have to get their running game on track as Johnson has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry through the first three games. They are also having problems in the passing game where their leading receiver, Tight End Tony Gonzales has only 167 yards and no touchdowns.
While the Chiefs are ranked 31st in scoring points so far, they cannot be taken lightly. The Chargers will need a big game from their inside linebackers to maintain pressure on the passer and assist in pass coverage.
Stephen Cooper is the teams leading tackler with 16 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles. He will be called upon to help keep Johnson in check to prevent him from getting on track in the running game.
The Chargers will rely on their big run stopping Nose Tackle, Jamal Williams, and his backup Brandon McKinney to stuff the run at the line of scrimmage while the athletic and speedy Outside Linebackers, Shaun Phillips, and Shawne Merriman contain the run on the edges.
<strong><em>Chiefs on Offense: </em></strong>
The Chiefs has scored just 12.0 points per game through the season's first three games, two losses to Houston and Chicago and one win against Minnesota, they have had little success to boast about. Their win over the Vikings was a game where they scored a season high 13 points.
The Chiefs will look to get going early, if possible, airing the ball out rather than challenge the run defense of San Diego. Historically, between the Chargers and Chiefs, the team holding the lead at halftime has won 15 of the last 17 games in the series dating back to 1997.
The Chiefs have won two of their last three meetings with San Diego partially due to the play Running Back, Larry Johnson. Johnson has averaged 115.7 rushing yards per game, while scoring three touch downs. During that stretch Johnson also has 10 runs of 10 or more yards.
The Chiefs will seek to exploit the Chargers secondary who has been pounded regularly by opposing quarterbacks through the first three games. To do this they will have to keep people in to protect their Quarterback Damon Huard, who is playing behind an offensive line that is mature but perhaps a bit long in the tooth. This will make it difficult for them to get match ups in the secondary without using crossing patterns or flooding one section of the coverage.
<strong><em>Chiefs on Defense: </em></strong>
The Chiefs defense has been able to pressure Chargers Quarterback, Philip Rivers in his two previous starts against the Chiefs. In the most recent meeting with the Chiefs, Rivers was limited to 8 completions for 97 yards, his lowest totals as a starter. The Chiefs also forced two interceptions during that game, leading to Rivers obtaining a career-low 12.4 passer rating.
The Chiefs will seek to create turnovers and will challenge Rivers to beat them, relying on their leading tackler Outside Linebacker Derek Johnson to pressure Rivers into throwing errant passes. Derek Johnson has compiled 21 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles and 2 sacks during the Chiefs first three games. He will seek to increase the number of tackles with outside blitzes on Rivers.
The Chargers have had some troubles picking up the blitzes this season and the Chiefs will look to also work in Linebacker Napoleon Harris into the scheme. Harris has compiled 19 solo tackles, 5 assisted tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and is a speedy linebacker who can get a good jump off of the ball with the snap. The Chiefs will rely on their big men on the defensive line to keep Tomlinson in check while their speedy linebackers move around to create the pressure.
<strong><em> The monkey and the wrench:</em></strong>
This is the first division game for both teams. Neither will want to fall behind in the division race as both are but one game behind the division leading Denver Broncos. But the Chargers have a better special teams game that the Chiefs and look for the game to become one of field position.
<strong><em>Concudan's Prognostication: </em></strong>
The Chargers are at home, and the Q can get loud. Look for them to go up early again. They will seek to score on their first drive to keep the 12th man in the game. This will not be an easy game but the Chargers should have the talent, and drive to hold off the Chiefs at home.
<strong><font color="Navy">Chargers 27, Chiefs 20.</font></strong>