Since the San Diego Chargers started the season off with a 3-1 record, they have lost their last three games, all in heartbreaking fashion to drop to 3-4. First they gave the Saints their first win of the season. Then they suffered a Monday Night meltdown to the Broncos after leading at halftime 24-0, eventually give up 35 unanswered points. Finally, they lost in a whimper to Cleveland, 7-6. Now it seems that Chargers Coach Norv Turner is coaching for his job on “a week-to-week basis.” But with a log jam of teams at 4-3 and 3-4, and with the Chargers history of always finishing strong, it’s still too early to count the Chargers out of the playoff picture.
The Kansas City Chiefs season has not turned out the way anyone has expected it to, either. They were a popular preseason favorites to win the division, yet the Chiefs are just 1-6 and 0-2 within the division and are a team in disarray. Coach Romeo Crennel benched quarterback Matt Cassel in favor of Brady Quinn, but a quick injury to Quinn has forced Cassel back in as the starting quarterback. The addition of running back Peyton Hillis hasn’t worked out as expected as he’s constantly fighting injuries of his own and there are still rumblings of the status of Dwayne Bowe with the team. For a team that has failed to lead in any of their games this season if the Chiefs have any hope of turning their season around they better leave it all on the field Thursday night.
Keys to Victory.
Running Game: Crennel was at a loss for words as he failed to come up with an explanation as to why Chiefs Running Back Jamaal Charles only received five carries in the week 8 game against the Raiders. In the Chiefs lone win against the Saints, the Chiefs fed the ball to Charles with 33 carries and 6 receptions and in the close loss to the Ravens Charles had 30 carries and 3 receptions, yet in the loss to the Chargers earlier in the season he only had 20 combined touches. If the Chiefs want to control the game, keep it close with any chance of winning, they need to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker and that is Charles.
For the Chargers, Ryan Matthews has come back from his preseason injury and has performed fairly well, but still under expectations. His fumbling continues to be an issue as he has fumbled twice already and has yet to record a 100-yard rushing game this season. His closest output was last week in Cleveland when he rushed for 95 yards. With Philip Rivers struggling again this season, the Chargers need to rely more on a solid ground game from Matthews and Ronnie Brown.
Quarterbacks: Matt Cassel’s biggest opponent Thursday night might be himself. His confidence is shattered after being benched. The coaches do not have any confidence in him which is why they turned the job over to Brady Quinn before Quinn’s injury. But Cassel turned in a decent performance in relief duty and this may be his last chance to rebound and show the coaches, players and fans that he deserves to stay the starter for the long-term. His biggest problem is turning the ball over. In only six games this season Cassel has thrown 10 interceptions. If he can manage the game, hand the ball to Charles and minimize his mistakes, the Chiefs may be able to pull out a victory.
Philip Rivers regressed last season and continues his fall into this season. His interceptions aren’t that much better than Cassel’s. In seven games this season Rivers has thrown nine interceptions including four in the Monday Night meltdown loss against the Broncos and only mustered 154-yards on 18 completions against the Browns last week, averaging a career worst 6.8 yards-per-attempt. He’s not getting much help from his receivers who continue to drop passes like the pass to Robert Meachem last week which could have made the difference in the ball game. Early this week Yahoo’s Mike Silver reported “some league executives and coaches” still believe there is something wrong with Rivers’ throwing arm and may require Tommy John surgery in the offseason. However, until the season ends, Rivers better find a way to mask his limitations and start playing the kind of football we all know he’s capable of.
Coaching: Both coaches appear to be coaching for their jobs, so their game plans and clock management will be a very crucial key to the game. Are the coaches able to block out the distractions that the teams are facing and keep them focused on the next game in front of them?
For Coach Crennel he addressed about his team not being mentally tough enough to handle adversity.
“I’ve had a lot of different suggestions about that, but my experience is that you talk to them about being mentally strong, try to put them in positions as many times as you can in practice where they have to show strong mentality,” said Crennel. “Now, that’s a little bit tougher today than it used to be, but just keep the focus on doing things the right way, being consistent, and then I think that helps the mentality.”
The future of Coach Norv Turner is dependent on the future of G.M. A.J. Smith. Smith may have Turner’s back like he’s had all these years or may make a change to save his own job. After three straight losses, the Chargers have a quick turnaround to get things fixed, as many believe there is still time to turn the season around.
After a defensive collapse against the Broncos, the Chargers defense rebounded by only allowing a touchdown against the Browns and defensive coach John Pagano feels during a losing streak his focus is coaching his players against trying to force negative plays.
“We’ve got to go and win. That’s the bottom line,” said coach Pagano. “It’s not trying to go out and create different types of situations. It’s getting those guys to understand. The game has never changed. It’s one play here and there, but it’s one play at a time and really going out and understanding the call and executing it. It’s a mindset of we have to go out and focus and we have to go now.”
Series: The Chiefs lead the series 52-51-1. The Chiefs lost in Week 4 to the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium 37-20. The last time the Chargers swept the series was in 2009. The last time the Chiefs won in San Diego was in 2007 when they beat the Chargers 30-16.
CHIEFS: In only meeting vs. SD (w/ Cle. on 12/6/09), QB BRADY QUINN passed for 271 yards with 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs & 95.7 rating. QB MATT CASSEL had 102.1 rating in last game at SD…Club averages AFC-best 155.1 rush yards per game in ’12…In past 5, RB JAMAAL CHARLES is averaging 6.2 yards per carry vs. Chargers (56 att., 346 yards). Averages 103.7 scrim. yards per game in ’12 (595 rush; 131 rec.). Charles (4,799) needs 201 scrim. yards to reach 5,000 career…WR DWAYNE BOWE (393) needs 7 rec. to become 4th player in franchise annals to reach 400 career. Bowe (39) needs TD rec. to become 5th player in club history with 40 career. WR JON BALDWIN has 9 rec. for 132 yards with TD in 2 career games vs. SD. WR DEXTER MC CLUSTER has 6 rec. in each of past 2 games…LB TAMBA HALI has 9.5 career sacks vs. SD, most vs. any opponent…CB BRANDON FLOWERS has 2 INTs in past 3 vs. SD…
CHARGERS: Seek 5th straight win vs. KC at home…Have won 2 of past 3 on TNF…As starter at home vs. KC, QB PHILIP RIVERS has 5-1 record. Is 40-8 (.833) as starter when posting 100+ rating. In past 3 on Thursday Night Football, Rivers has 8 TDs vs. 1 INT & 105.9 rating…RB RYAN MATHEWS had 2 rush TDs in last meeting at home vs. KC. RB RONNIE BROWN had season-best in rec. (7) & rec. yards (85) last week…TE ANTONIO GATES (78) trails only HOFer LANCE ALWORTH (81) for most rec. TDs in team history…LB SHAUN PHILLIPS (65) has 3rd-most sacks by Charger (LESLIE O’NEAL, 105.5; LEE WILLIAMS, 65.5)…DE COREY LIUGET has 2 sacks in past 3…Since ’11, S ERIC WEDDLE leads NFL w/ 9 INTs…LB DONALD BUTLER had 6 tackles, 0.5 sack & 21-yard INT-return TD in last game vs. KC.
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