The Chargers (4-6) basically need to run the table for the remaining six games. The first of those six games is against the talented Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) in Arrowhead. Not an easy task.
Offensively, the Chiefs are powered by a solid running game. Only four teams in the AFC average more rushing yards per game than the 121.5 that Kansas City produces.
The main attack from the ground is Jamaal Charles. Charles leads the AFC in rushing attempts (186), rushing yards (803) and yards per game (80.3). He is third in the AFC in rushing touchdowns (6).
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Chiefs run Charles toward the left side of the offensive line more often than to the right. Charles has 115 carries from the middle-left of the offensive line to outside the left tackle.
That’s more than 61 percent of his runs.
The reason he runs to the left is because it is effective. He has gained 508 yards on runs to the left, which is more than 63 percent of his rushing total.
More specifically, head coach Andy Reid and company send Charles outside the left tackle more than 19 percent of the time. Charles has 36 carries outside the left end for 154 yards, the most carries and yards of any direction for him this year.
One of the reasons Charles is effective to the left side of the line is left tackle Branden Albert’s mobility.
This play against Cleveland in Week 8 illustrates Albert’s mobility and why Charles is so effective outside to the left.
The wide receiver and slot receiver seal down on the outside linebacker and nickel defensive back while Albert pulls around and heads toward the cornerback. Listed at 6'5" and 316 pounds, Albert is a large and powerful man assigned to block a much smaller man (in this case, 5'9" and 180-pound corner Chris Owens).
The play would be doomed if Albert is unable to get around the two blockers, either because Albert is too slow or he stumbles. But Albert smoothly turns his hips and is ready to be the lead blocker for Charles.
From the end zone angle, it is easy to see the lane created by the successful down blocks by the receivers and one almost feels sorry for Owens as Albert zeros in on his assignment. Charles gains 7 yards on the play before being pushed out of bounds by safety T.J. Ward. Some offensive line coaches call this “getting candy” because an o-lineman against a defensive back is like taking candy from a baby.
What is more important for the San Diego Chargers against the Kansas City Chiefs?
The Chargers defense, especially outside linebackers Tourek Williams and Thomas Keiser, must be aware of potential down blocks by slot receivers and fight to maintain outside containment forcing Charles away from the sideline and back toward the rest of the defense.
Defensively, the Chiefs are very fast and very physical.
Kansas City has four interceptions for touchdowns and has returned two fumbles for scores. The six combined defensive touchdowns are the most in the NFL.
The Chiefs also have 36 team sacks, second-most in the NFL.
Kansas City moves the two around to different positions along the line of scrimmage to get favorable matchups.
In this play against the Jaguars in Week 1, the Chiefs only have one defensive lineman and put Houston and Hali on the same side. This is a nightmare scenario for the offensive line in a pass situation. The two best pass rushers are attacking from the same side, meaning it is extremely difficult to double team to help out. This puts Hali and Houston in one-on-one situations, a bet Kansas City will take every time.
Houston and Hali get pressure and force the quarterback to step up into the pocket, but nose tackle Dontari Poe is sitting in the middle, sheds the block and gets credited for the sack.
The way San Diego should counter the Chiefs’ aggressive pass rush is screens and draws. Those plays use the pass rush against Kansas City by inviting the defenders up-field then slipping the ball carrier past them.