The San Diego Chargers pounded the Kansas City Chiefs 43-14 in what was considered a potential trap game after the Chiefs' upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. That the Chargers won to maintain a one game edge over a Broncos team that finally halted its losing streak is good. That the Chargers won convincingly when concerns over "trap" potential and a letdown were prevalent was also good. With that said, how much does San Diego take away from this game?
They were expected to win. This was a divisional home game against a team looking towards a top five draft pick. They have now defeated the Chiefs by a combined total of 80-21, a potent series blowout. The Chiefs also gave San Diego too many opportunities for the game to be anything but a blowout. Fumbled quasi-throws, bad snaps, fumbles, interceptions; Kansas City did everything in its power to lose this game.
San Diego had no complaints.
So where does the team stand? Beyond doing what was expected, what did the actual flow of the game tell?
LaDainian Tomlinson proved that he is still a bit of a spark away, with 39 yards on 13 carries, including a goal-line fumble. He didn't have to do much, but it was still another day of three yards or less per carry. He doesn't need over four a game anymore, but at least three-and-a-half would make me feel more comfortable.
Mike Tolbert, on the other hand, followed up his massive 8.3 yard per carry garbage spectacular with another solid performance (albeit on only four carries) for 4.8 yards per carry.
With Darren Sproles proving to be more of a receiver than a dual-purpose threat on offense (in the five games with more than five carries, he has never averaged better than 2.9 yards a carry this year), why not give him the ball a couple of times a game in non-garbage situations, especially short-yardage? He is a player that can push the chains and fall forward. The Chargers should give Sproles a few more carries in regular season games and see if the trend continues into non-garbage play. Worst-case scenario is that it doesn't, and you revert to the current situation.
We also learned that the vertical passing game is Antonio Gates' best friend. With Floyd and Jackson running down field, Gates was left with linebackers on him and responded with a monster day (take away the pass interference and it's eight grabs for over 120 yards and three touchdowns). Big days from Gates will force a safety to stay closer, opening up Jackson and Floyd on deep routes. If they stay true to defending the deep ball, Gates can eat teams alive underneath.
Finally, Nate Kaeding's 55-yard field goal is big. As a guy with a highly accurate leg that has occasionally missed big kicks, this could be an important confidence boost going into the playoffs. That ball would have made it from 60. As good as he is, he still needs to hit one of those big, defining clutch kicks to make a name for himself and finish erasing the thoughts of John Carney
On the defensive side of the football, we have both good and bad.
Fourteen points is not much, but with all of the Chiefs' miscues, that could have easily been lower. Cassel was a respectable 19-31 for 178 yards, with a touchdown and a pick. The Chiefs (mostly via Jamaal Charles) added themselves to the ever-growing list of teams that have put over 100 yards on the ground against San Diego. Any time the opposition's primary ball carrier averages well over six yards per carry, that is a problem.
Also a bit of a worry was the inability to finish a sack. The team got great penetration and forced bad throws, made Cassel scamper, and even recorded a safety. But they continually failed to bring him down. San Diego should have seen about three sacks in the box score, but the big quarterback was solid and mobile enough to elude defenders.
The Chargers are a team on a roll, and they should be congratulated on this latest victory. A few strides were made (watching Tolbert, Kaeding's big kick) but ultimately I think this was more about Kansas City than San Diego. Anything but the worst of days would have been a blowout with the number of Chiefs mistakes, and one cannot expect a team like Dallas or Cincinnati to play that poorly.
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