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Keys to the Game: Chargers vs. Chiefs

Posted Dec 27, 2013

Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here are five keys to the game heading into this week’s regular season finale between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs:

1.  Maintain the Focus– From top to bottom, the Bolts have vowed to keep their focus solely on beating the Kansas City Chiefs. While three pieces of the puzzle need to fall into place for them to establish a spot in the post season, the Chargers are focusing on the only piece they can control, which is beating their division rival.  That may be easier said than done, though when listening to the Bolts speak, you get the sense that truly is the case for San Diego.  Here is what Philip Rivers had to say about it:

“We’ve just got to keep our focus on winning our ninth game.  If we get an opportunity to win a 10th one, then we’ll be there.  If not, we’ll have finished with four in a row and going 4-2 in the division.  I think that’s our biggest focus.  We always talk about what we can control, and I think its human nature (that) we will know what has happened, but we can’t worry about that.  We’ve got to play the game and play the game to win the game.”

 

2.  Be Prepared to Face Whoever Lines Up  –With the Chiefs locked into the five seed no matter the outcome of Sunday’s game, there has been a ton of speculation over whether Andy Reid will rest his starters or let them  play.  He has said he will mix and match his starters.  However, as Defensive Coordinator John Pagano said, the Chargers will be prepared to face whoever lines up against them this Sunday:

“From teams that have been in this type of situation previously, you have to go off those types of exposure. For us mentally and for us defensively, we have to prepare because their backups are very explosive. The running back, number 34 comes in and he has very explosive moves and the guys that they call backups but they rotate in there, so to me they aren't really backups. There are not that many guys on offense anyway, so everyone is going to have to play. From a standpoint of certain guys not being in there, our focus is looking at what Kansas City does on film and that is the only thing we can do."

3.  A More Consistent Defense–The Chargers defense has turned the corner since the last time these teams squared off on Nov. 24.  On that date, they allowed 38 points, but the unit is playing like a completely different team since then.  They have 10 total takeaways in the last five games and have held the last three opponents to an average of just 297.7 yards and 15.7 points per game. San Diego’s secondary also has been playing better with four interceptions and 21 passes defensed in the last three games.  As Pagano noted, it’s important that the Chargers maintain their consistent brand of defense of late:

"I think we have been playing more consistently the last three weeks and it's shown. Even over the past five or six and even in the last game against Kansas City we had stretches where we started off with some three-and-outs and being able to get a timely three-and-out in the second half gave our offense a chance to get the ball back. We have to play more consistent and we didn't do that the first game. That's something these guys are looking to do."

 

4. Establish the RunRyan Mathews missed practice earlier this week while dealing with an ankle injury sustained in last week’s win over the Oakland Raiders.  However, he returned to practice on Friday and Head Coach Mike McCoy said he fully expects the running back to play, which is tremendous news for Chargers fans.  Over the last three weeks, Mathews has been as good as any running back in the entire NFL.  For the season, he has already set a new career high with 1,111 yards, which ranks eighth in the NFL.  It’s the second time in his four year career that he has eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground. In the last three games alone, Mathews has rushed 83 times for 329 yards and three touchdowns, including 25 carries for 99 yards on Sunday against Oakland. As a team, the Chargers have rushed for over 100 yards in three straight and 11 of 15. After last week’s win, McCoy spoke about how proud he is of what Mathews has accomplished this season:

“I’m very happy for Ryan Mathews. You guys all asked early on why he isn’t carrying the ball, why he isn’t doing this.  But the kid just kept working extremely hard. After today’s game, it was a single season high for him. So give him a lot of credit.  We’ve said from day one that we want unselfish players who just want to win.  And he’s one of those kids, that’s all he did. It’s very deserving to see where he is right now.”

 

5.  Our Colors and Our Colors Only  – The Chargers haven’t hid the fact that they need tremendous fan support this week.  It’s Fan Appreciation Day, and while the team will doll out some terrific contest prizes, the best gift of all would be to send the fans home with a win.  However, it is a symbiotic relationship as the best chance the team has to win is to have a true home field advantage as stated emphatically by Coach McCoy:

"We need our largest, loudest—however you want to say it—fan support this week. This is what it all comes down to. It comes down to the last game of the season. So as the fans, we’re asking you as an organization, we need as many Charger fans in that stadium. As much of our colors and our colors only please. Be as loud as you can because it’s going to be a great weekend.”

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