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Five Lessons from the Chiefs Game
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Here are five lessons we learned from the 33-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:
1. Offense Takes Step Back –The offense had three players return from injury as King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin and Ladarius Green were back in the lineup. However, with Malcom Floyd sidelined and a number of others out for the year on IR, Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich said last week players stepping in had to step up. Instead, on the day Philip Rivers set the franchise record by passing Dan Fouts for most career completions, the offense took a step back with their worst outing of the year. The Chargers failed to enter the red zone on any of their 11 drives and recorded season lows in points and yards (201). In fact, Rivers had more passing yards in each of the team’s previous nine games than the offense had total against the Chiefs. Number 17 explained how Sunday was one of the worst offensive outings of his 12 year career, punctuated by the team failing to find the end zone:
“It doesn’t happen very often. I don’t know how many of those we’ve had in my career here. Not a lot. The defense could have held them to six today and we would have still lost.”
2. Lack of Execution on Defense– Surrendering big plays has been a trend on defense this season, and it unfortunately continued on Sunday as the Bolts gave up seven plays of at least 20 yards. They included a 47 yard catch and run by Charcandrick West and a 52 yard run by Spencer Ware that moved the Chiefs from their own 23 to the San Diego 25. The Chargers have been in position to limit those big plays, but just haven’t been able to execute them. For instance, with 1:25 remaining in the first half and the Chiefs at their own 18 yard line, Melvin Ingram had Alex Smith in his grasp for a huge sack on 3rd-and-6. Unfortunately, the quarterback wiggled free and ran for 10 yards and a new set of downs. Instead of the Chargers calling time out and getting the ball with good field position to run the two minute drill down 9-3, as well as get the ball back to start the second half, the Chiefs marched downfield to extend their lead. Head Coach Mike McCoy explained how that play was a game changing swing:
“If we had the third down stop, as you saw, I was down there and going to call timeout for the fourth down play. Unfortunately we let Alex get out. We had a stop. That’s another one of those plays that’s a huge difference in the game. That’s one of those plays early in the game if you make it, we get that stop, we get that sack right there (and) look at Philip’s track record on the two minute drills this year at end of halves and what we’ve done. And then we get the ball to start the second half. So we didn’t capitalize there. We didn’t get off the field.”
Corey Liuget also pointed to that play as indicative of the defense’s lack of execution:
“You can’t (give up big plays). You can’t do it all. If you could have held them a little longer and get off the field (just before halftime), we’d give our offense another chance because we were only (one) score. After that, it just got out of hand. We just have to come back to work, ready to work.”
3. Field Position Failures Continue–Field position has been an Achilles Heel all year long for the Bolts, who rank last in the league with an average starting field position on their own 20.65 yard line. That is more than two whole yards behind San Francisco, who ranks 31st beginning at their own 22.84. Against Kansas City, the Chargers had 11 offensive series with an average field position of their own 15 yard line. The only drive to begin beyond the 20 yard line was a squib kick to the 29 right before halftime in which the Bolts took a knee. The rest began on their own 15, 11, seven, six and one. Meanwhile, the Chargers rank 31st in defensive field position as their opponents begin drives averaging their own 31.99 yard line. Right on target, the Chiefs 10 drives averaged their own 32 yard line. In the fourth quarter, when it appeared the Bolts would finally get good field position, Javontee Herndon muffed a punt around midfield that the Chiefs recovered as McCoy lamented losing the field position battle once again:
“You have a punt that we muff. You think you are going to get good field position, finally. It is a field position battle again. I don’t have all the numbers in front of me, but it was poor field position for the most part. You get one opportunity to get good field position and you put the ball on the ground and that is the way it went.”
Making no excuse for their lackluster day on offense, Rivers explained how poor field position has been a constant all year long:
“I think that’s been all year for the most part. You check the field position numbers – I don’t know exactly what they (are) – but I don’t think we’re up there real high. And that’s no excuse for us offensively. I think we’ve led the league in long drives and fewest three-and-outs. We’ve been up there high."
4. Running Game Struggles to Take Hold - The Chargers began the game trying in earnest to establish their rushing attack. However, they weren’t able to muster much on the ground against the league’s fourth-ranked rushing defense. Overall, the Bolts ran the ball 21 times for 52 yards, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. Melvin Gordon finished with 37 yards on 15 carries while Philip Rivers had eight yards on four attempts and Danny Woodhead seven yards on six totes. Gordon explained how the team entered the game determined to establish the run, but had to abandon it after falling behind:
“Our game plan was to come in here and run the ball some more. It’s hard to do that when we’re down and can’t really run the ball. So it affected our game plan a little bit…In this league with running the ball, you have to wear them down a little bit. It’s not until like the third or fourth quarter when you’re getting big runs but you have the beginning of the first quarter and first series, it’s going to be two or three (run plays) here or there until people get worn out.”
5. Time to Be a Pro- With six straight losses and a 2-8 record, the locker room continues to be at a loss for words to explain how the season has gotten away from them. Still, that doesn’t mean they are giving up. Addressing the media, Rivers was adamant that the team will continue to scratch and claw to get back in the win column:
“I think it’s just being a pro at this point. Are you going to be a pro? Going to be a man? I think you’re going to come to work every day and do your job. I think that’s what it is. Yes, you play for the guy next to you and all those things. I think that will always be a mantra of mine. But, I think at this point it’s just being a pro. Just go. The ball’s going to get kicked off next Sunday and Jacksonville’s sure as heck isn’t going to feel sorry for us. If we want to keep getting embarrassed like this, then we can lolly-gag around and we will (lose). Jacksonville will beat us just like this if we do have that approach. Or we can go out there and beat Jacksonville. Either outcome is possible. I don’t know that one’s greater than the other. One would say that the former is probably greater just going off the last six weeks. We’ll see what happens.”
Liuget also explained how the Bolts would work hard to right the ship over the final six games of the season:
“Only way you can go is up. You have to get back to work and try to get a win. That’s the most important thing. We have Jacksonville next week and we look forward to going down there and getting a win.”