Facing off against the top-ranked total offense in the NFL isn’t easy. Add in the fact that it’s a Thursday night game at one of the loudest stadiums in the league, and the job doesn’t get any easier.
But the Bolts are ready to block out the noise.
“It's like a playoff atmosphere whether it's the first game or late in the season like this or a big division game,” Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said about Arrowhead Stadium. “It's a great atmosphere.”
Having played and won in Seattle, Oakland and Pittsburgh this season, the team knows the amount of mental focus it takes to stay the course. However, with a short week between games, Head Coach Anthony Lynn noted that the mental focus of the players needs to be sharp as they participate in walkthroughs instead of full practice, as to save the physical strain on their bodies.
“I really think if you focus and lock in in the meeting room like you should and like these guys did yesterday, you come out on the field and you go at a slower tempo but mentally you're there. You're in the present moment,” Lynn said. “I think you can get just as good of work done as going full speed without the collisions and injuries and things like that. There's a skill and an art to practicing without the pads and walking through, and I think this club is getting better at that. We're doing more of that these days.”
“You have to be careful about what you give these guys because really, you're not going to get a lot of reps during the week,” added Whisenhunt. “You've got to put them in positions where you think they can be successful, but it's just a little bit unsettling because there's so much that you go through in the week for preparation and now it's condensed to two days. It makes it hard.”
While it may seem that the Bolts’ job of shoving an entire week’s worth of preparation into three days is made easier by the fact that this is an opponent they’ve played once already, that’s not the case. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley noted that through watching film, they’ve seen how Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has evolved throughout the season.
Since the Week 1 Chiefs-Chargers matchup, Mahomes has continued to extend his success on the field, racking up a total of 4,300 passing yards and 43 touchdowns. Mahomes’ lowest completion percentage for the season, 55.6, came against the Bolts.
“We played them in the very first game so we (were) watching college tape to see how Mahomes is and see how he reacts to certain things and how he plays the game,” Bradley said. “You can see that they have gained more confidence with him and (are) allowing him more opportunities to make plays and extend plays. You can just see the trust that he's gained with some of his teammates.”
The test for the Chargers defense lies largely in Mahomes’ mobility and ability to extend plays, explained Bradley, but it’s one that they can’t wait to attack.
“The challenge for our defense is to understand that this is not some of the normal things that we see from week-in and week-out, and because of his ability to extend the play, some of those shots turn out not to be 20-yard gains, but a touchdown,” he said. “I think that's what unique about them. They are very challenging offensively.”