How do the Chiefs beat the Chargers?I’d never want to underestimate the ability of Norv Turner to coach this team down to our level, and the Chargers have a litany of injuries that could do that without Norv’s help. Still, the Chiefs will have to do a lot of things right to win this game…amongst them:
1. Keep it close early. This Chargers team is (and always has been) fragile. The crowd at Arrowhead, on Halloween no less, may be an all-time great. If the Chiefs can stake an early lead, who has confidence that Philip Rivers (especially 2011 Philip Rivers) won’t meltdown? Arrowhead has long been famous as one of the best atmospheres in the league…especially on Monday Night Football. Last year, these same teams played on MNF to start the season, and the Chiefs victory (inspired by the loudest crowd I’d heard out there in years) led to an improbable division title. The recipe is still the same. Falling down one score early (like they did last year) would not be disastrous but any more than that could be.
2. Shutdown Ryan Mathews. With Rivers’ struggles and the statement made by the Chiefs secondary last week the Chargers are going to lean on the running game even more. It’s looking more and more like Mike Tolbert won’t play meaning Mathews should see even more touches. Mathews leads the team in rushing yards, total yards, and is second in receptions. He’s averaging 137 total yards a game in victories and just 96 in losses. As much as Mathews was maligned last season for fumbles and injuries, he’s turned into the heart of this Chargers’ offense. Shutting him down puts the pressure on Rivers in a hostile environment...and that is a great start.
3. Contain Antonio Gates. When he’s healthy, you can’t stop Antonio Gates, he’s proven that. Even last week when he wasn’t really healthy one of the best pass defenses in the league couldn’t stop him. Still, the point is, the Chiefs need to make the Chargers beat them with their weakness (wide outs) against the Chiefs’ strength (corners). This strategy will probably result in Rivers completing a deep bomb or two, but it will also give the Chiefs more opportunities to make the kind of big plays they’ll need to win this game.
Simple enough right? Listen, if you’re looking for a rah-rah speech about how this game makes us a lock to win the division you’d probably be better served going here. Even with a win here, the Chiefs have a tremendous amount of work to do to be anywhere close to the playoffs. That being said, this game is absolutely winnable.
The fact is, San Diego is a pretty good representation of their city. Their used to perfect, comfortable conditions...and a laid back atmosphere. Make them uncomfortable and the Chiefs have a pretty good chance of being in a first place tie on Tuesday morning, no matter how unlikely that seemed a month ago.