Chargers vs Chiefs: 8 Things We Learned

Will McCaffertyCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2011

Chargers vs Chiefs: 8 Things We Learned

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    One thing we know for sure is that the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs do not like each other very much. As these two long-time rivals battled over the football, multiple skirmishes broke out throughout the game.

    The NHL doesn't have this many fights during one game. Yes, the blood was boiling and perhaps that is what led to some very sloppy football.

    Before my fellow Chargers fans start with the, "oh no, we almost lost," chants, allow me to remind you that this time last year it was, "Oh no, we lost to them?"

    That's right, the Chargers did not play well, but they still won the game. This was a rivalry game with a division opponent. Try not to read more into this game than you have to.

    The Chargers are also playing under a new defensive coordinator and it takes time to get used to new coaches, players and systems.

    Let's take a look at what we saw and see if there is anything that can be learned from this ugly win.

Special Teams

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    The jury is still out on the special teams unit. Nick Novac looked solid as he knocked in a couple of field goals with a long of 41 yards. I watched him during pregame and he was solid all day.

    He looks like he will be a fine replacement for Nate Kaeding this season.

    On the other side of the ball, Kansas City missed a chip shot that later proved to be the difference in the game.

    Punter, Mike Scifres, was his usual self with two punts for a 47 yards per punt average. No complaints with Scifres.

    Punt coverage was a bit iffy at best. After a booming 57-yard punt by Scifres, the Chiefs were able to gain 37 yards on the return. It was not a return for a score, which we grew accustomed to last year, but it was still far too many yards in that situation.

    Scifres' punt was high, not on a line. Coverage should have been there.

    Kick and kick return teams did adequate jobs. The Chargers were not able to pin the Chiefs back inside the 20 all day long, but they did keep them around the 30 for the most part. That is more than we can say about last year’s kick coverage team.

    On the other hand, the Chargers did not do much in the kick return game. The Bolts were only able to return two kicks and averaged 22 yards. That put them behind the 20 yard line. So far, no one has emerged as a quality replacement for Darren Sproles.

Pass Defense

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    If you look at passing yards allowed (176) you would have to say that the Chargers' pass defense did a great job. If you consider that Matt Cassel was the quarterback and he only threw 24 passes, you may realize that there is still a lot of work to do.

    The entire first half, the Chiefs ran on first and second downs, threw on third and punted on fourth. It was predictable and rather pathetic.

    In the second half, Cassel was allowed to air it out a little bit and was able to hit receivers running all alone. Some appeared to be covered but were still hit for big plays, including a couple of touchdowns.

    All that aside, when the game was on the line, the Chargers' defense came up big with a clutch interception by safety Eric Weddle to crush KC’s dreams.

    This season has shown us that the Chargers defense can compete with teams who have sub-par quarterbacks that rely heavily on the running game.

    That was the case in Week 1 against Donovan McNabb and the Minnesota Vikings, and again yesterday against Cassel and his Chiefs.

    It’s nice to see the run being handled better, but I’m still quite worried about the pass defense.

Run Defense

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    Overall, I was very pleased with the Chargers run defense. The Bolts only gave up 81 yards on the ground all day with the longest rush being 16 yards.

    That left the Chiefs with an average of three yards a carry. Not bad considering the entire first half, the Chiefs noticeably avoided throwing the football at all cost. In fact, the Chiefs failed to get a first down the entire first half.

    Yes, I know that Jamal Charles was out and he is a big part of the Chief’s run game. However, the only reason any running back is effective is because their offensive line can run block.

    Denver proved for years that they could run the ball with anyone back there if their line was intact. McCluster and Jones are not slouches by any means and the Chargers controlled them all day.

    The question is, can the Chargers shut down a running game when the opposing quarterback is a capable passer? The New England game would suggest that they will struggle (at least for now).

    The Patriots ran for almost 100 yards on 23 carries if you don’t count Brady scrambling twice and gaining three yards.

    I just hope that the Chargers can raid the local Foot Lockers again and find some more talent. Injuries on the D-line may be the biggest problem their run defense has.

Passing Attack

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    I don’t know what is up with Philip Rivers. I understand that Antonio Gates has been banged up and he is a huge part of the Chargers offense.

    But remember, last year he missed games as well and Rivers was able to raise the level of the other receivers. In fact he threw completions to 17 different receivers last year.

    This year, he has lacked accuracy at times and has had moments of extremely poor judgement.

    For example, in the Chiefs game, Rivers scrambled out to his right and attempted to sling the ball while running full speed, hitting a receiver about 25 yards down field.

    Two different Chiefs defenders were in line to catch the ball before the Charger receiver would have ever had a chance.

    This year, Rivers has had a problem with picks, deflections, accuracy and clock management. That is all true and would make me worry about most quarterbacks. Not so much with Rivers.

    I think he has proven himself over time and it is obvious that he is just trying to do too much right now and needs to get his head on straight. Once he does that, he should be fine.

Ground Attack

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    Mark your calendars, Ryan Matthews may have just arrived. All three games thus far, Mathews has accumulated over 100 yards of total offense. Game three was no exception.

    Mathews not only scampered for 98 yards with a 4.7 yards per carry average and two touchdowns, he also had an additional 51 yards in receiving. Seeing Mathews cut, sprint, hit, slash and have a nose for the goal line made me think of a former Charger great named La—no wait. I can’t do that to the kid.

    Let’s just say he looks very good this year. If Mathews can stay healthy and continue to hang on to the ball, he will easily surpass 1,000 yards, even with Mike Tolbert sharing some of the load.

    As for Tolbert, he did well also. He only ran the ball four times, but he ran hard and did not fumble. He also had a key 21-yard reception that converted a big third-and-long.

    It did appear that perhaps Norv Turner is getting tired of people who put the ball on the ground. Tolbert had a terrible fumble last week and he hardly saw the ball this week. No coincidence in my opinion.

    Tolbert's lack of carries may also have something to do with how greatly improved Mathews is at pass protection.  He did a wonderful job picking up the blitz in this game. 

    Pass protection, fumbles and injuries kept Mathews off the field for much of last season.  These issues have not reared their ugly heads this season as of yet.


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    What can I say about the coaching in this game?  Hmmmmm.  Let's just say that the Hall of Fame will not be requesting a copy of either team's game plan.

    I believe the main reason that Norv Turner came out on top in this one is because Kansas City may have the worst coach in the league.  To be unable to get one first down in an entire half?  Puh-leaze.

    Anyway, the Chargers were once again unable to get the machine rolling and take it to their opponent.  The offense has moments that are truly impressive, then it sputters out. 

    There is no way that the Chargers should have only scored 10 points in the first half. They won the field position battle all half and Matthews was able to move the ball on the ground very effectively. 

    Still, punching it into the end zone was too much to ask on most drives. If you don't want to place any blame on Turner for the turnovers, then he didn't do too poorly.

    On the other hand, neither team showed discipline or self control.  There were countless fights (which the refs never did anything about either), stupid penalties and mental errors on both sides of the ball.

    Possibly the most glaring mistake was when the Chargers needed a first down to put the Chiefs away and decided to go for it on fourth and about a foot.  Don't get me wrong, I was all for going for it. 

    I didn't even mind Rivers going for the keeper.  What I minded was that Rivers snapped the ball with 20 seconds on the play clock and the Chiefs had no timeouts.

    It seems to me that when Norv was calling in the play, he perhaps should have mentioned to Rivers that he should milk the clock.  Take it down to a second and snap the ball. 

    If you think the QB keeper needs to be on a quick count, then run the ball with Matthews.  We're talking about a foot.


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    Players were dropping like flies during this matchup.  Jacques Cesaire, Quentin Jammer and Antonio Garay were all banged up.  Garay re-entered the game and appeared fine. Jammer and Cesaire stayed out and more information is yet to come.

    Gates could be out for a while.  Rumors are floating around that he may be held out until after the bye week.  That would mean that second string Randy McMichael would have to continue to step up and fill those huge shoes. 

    McMichael did a fine job on Sunday against the Chiefs.  He did have one drop for a big first down, but overall he had a good day.

    The jury is still out on whether or not the Bolts will be seeing the return of rookie D-lineman Corey Liuget for next Sunday's game.

Next Opponent

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    Here come the Miami Dolphins. The Fish are winless this season, but don't let that fool you.  Remember the Chiefs came in a massive underdogs as well.  The Dolphins can move the ball.  Chad Henne has thrown the ball for almost 850 yards in three games and has 100 yards rushing.

    Daniel Thomas is the featured back and averages almost five yards per carry. Reggie Bush has not done much in the running game yet, but he does have 11 receptions and is always a threat for a big play.

    The Fins defense has been a bit porous as it is ranked 30th in opponents passing yards.  This may be just what Rivers and company need to get well.

    To me, the Chiefs and Dolphins are similar matchups for the Chargers.  Both teams will be expected to lose and neither team had a win coming in. 

    That would worry me this week against the Dolphins if not for the fact that the Chiefs just gave the Bolts the scare of their lives.  Surely, they will learn from that....right?

    My prediction:  Chargers 28, Dolphins 17