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SAN DIEGO – Eighty-six days have passed since the Chargers lost to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football to open the season.
The venue and weather aren’t the only things that will be different, San Diego hopes.
“First games, everyone’s feeling each other out,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “I think we’re a better team than we were on opening day.”
The Chargers (6-6) have won four of the last five games after starting the season 2-5, a stretch that included four road losses. San Diego has been more balanced on offense since, sports a better turnover margin and has played better on special teams.
But Kansas City (8-4) also has gotten better, Turner said.
“I know they’re a better team,” he said. “Cassel’s played at an extremely high level.”
The Chiefs haven’t changed as much as their identity has become more apparent than it was when they were a young team entering the season with two new coordinators, Stephen Cooper said.
“The biggest thing is when you go into the first game of the season you don’t know what to expect,” Cooper said. “Now knowing what to expect with formation recognition and personnel we feel like we’ve got a good grasp of what they want to do. It’s all about us going out and executing the defense and doing our job.”
QUARTERBACK QUESTION: One of the most identifiable differences in Kansas City’s recent play is the development of Matt Cassel and the passing game.
Cassel completed just 10-of-22 passes for 68 yards during the season-opener but has become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, rising to fifth in the league with a passer rating approaching 100. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns against one interception since the Chiefs’ Week 4 bye.
“He’s making right decisions,” Eric Weddle said. “At quarterback it’s always about making right decisions even if it’s third-and-10 and there’s no one open up the field. You don’t try to force anything. Check down and play good defense, and they’ve got a good defense that’s playing well.
“He’s making all the right plays right now and we’ve got to make it tough on him and hopefully make a couple plays on the back end to get the ball into our hands.”
Cassel’s status for the game is in question after he had emergency appendectomy surgery this week. Backup Brodie Croyle has nine career starts and 300 NFL pass attempts.
“We plan on (Cassel) playing,” Turner said, noting that the Chiefs are a challenging offense with or without Cassel.
Said Cooper: “We’re not worried about who’s hurt over there. We’re worried about us executing plays on our side of the football.”
RETURNS HANDLED: Darren Sproles (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.
Turner did not rule him out for Sunday but said Antoine Cason again will handle punt returns if Sproles can’t play.
Patrick Crayton, the backup returner, is out with an arm injury. Cason returned punts as a senior at Arizona in 2007, averaging 6.9 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
“Cason has done it and was very good at it in college,” Turner said.
PRACTICE WEATHER: Sunny, 65 degrees. Read