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Key Matchups: Chargers vs. Chiefs
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Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs:
“(Houston) is a really complete player at the outside linebacker position for them. Obviously extremely talented. A Pro Bowler. His numbers speak for themselves, and he has all the physical tools you look for. He’s close to 6-3, 265 so he’s big and strong. He can play the run, strong at the point of attack and also very athletic. Dangerous as a pass rusher, has speed off the edge, is an explosive player off the edge and also uses his hands well. He’s a crafty player.”
2. Jason Verrett vs. Jeremy Maclin –The Bolts have tasked Jason Verrett with locking down the opposition’s number one receiver numerous times this season. Should that continue this week, he’ll look to add Jeremy Maclin to the list of premier wideouts he’s gone toe-to-toe with such as Antonio Brown, Steve Smith, Sr. and Alshon Jeffery among others. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid outlined what makes Maclin so dangerous, as he’s brought an element to their offense that was lacking last season with 45 catches, 583 yards and two touchdowns to date:
“First of all he knows the offense; he has been in it for a few years. He’s a combination guy; he has good speed and quickness. He is also very smart and loves to play the game. He’s a tough kid and is not afraid to mix it up a little bit.”
Verrett missed both of the Bolts games vs. the Chiefs last season, so this will be the first time Reid sees the cornerback up close and personal. Still, Kansas City’s head coach is a big fan of the corner and knows he is a player his offense needs to be wary of:
“I liked him coming out of college. He was a heck of a college player and he has transferred that into the NFL. He has great feet and instincts.”
3. Follow West – Since taking over for the injured Jamaal Charles, second-year running back Charcandrick West has been one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. In fact, over the past three games, only Adrian Peterson and Antonio Brown have averaged more than his 137.3 total yards from scrimmage per game. West has carried the ball 87 times for 357 yards (4.1 ypc) and four touchdowns along with 12 catches for 151 yards and one TD. With Kansas City using their running back in many different ways, the Bolts need to monitor the playmaker across the entire field. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano chimed in with what he’s seen out of the young running back:
“A good player. Great balance and great ability to find the hole. He has great vision. Tough to tackle. Looks powerful down low (with) a low center of gravity. He’s one of those guys that is real shifty, and he does a great job of eluding tacklers and making it tough on people. He’s a good football player. Jamaal is so explosive, but this guy gives them a little bit more of an edge of pounding the football down in there and he does a good job of that.”
4. Step in and Step Up – With 3,033 passing yards to date, Philip Rivers is threatening Peyton Manning’s NFL single-season record of 5,477. However, he’s lost a number of his top weapons in recent weeks. Keenan Allen is out for the season with a kidney injury, while Malcom Floyd (shoulder) and Ladarius Green (ankle) have yet to practice this week. Antonio Gates is also battling injuries, and did not participate Thursday due to hip and knee ailments. The Chargers firmly believe their passing game won’t skip a beat with Rivers at the helm, but Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich explained that also depends on his targets rising to the occasion:
“Guys who are stepping in have got to step up. That’s just the way it rolls in the NFL. Guys on the outside have got to step up. Obviously Dontrelle (Inman) had a good game against these guys last year. Against a very good secondary, Dontrelle did well. So we’ve got a lot of confidence in Dontrelle and the other receivers that will step up and play. Obviously, we think Stevie (Johnson) is a very big time receiver. And of course we’ve got our inside receivers we think are tough matchups for them.”
5. Win the Turnover Battle – Creating turnovers and protecting the football are paramount each week. However, it’s of the utmost importance against a Chiefs team that thrives in both areas. Kansas City’s plus-8 in turnover ratio is tied for the second best in the NFL, forcing 16 and giving up only eight. Their 72 points off takeaways are the third most in the league while their eight giveaways are the third fewest. Pagano noted how the Chiefs run an efficient offense that puts them in the best position to succeed:
“They do a great job. They don’t turn the ball over. Alex (Smith) has three interceptions I believe, and their fumbles are down. The best way to describe them is they are very efficient. They do a ton of stuff, and they do it well. They do it fast. You put on every game and it doesn’t change. They are always there moving.”