Tonight's trick-or-treat matchup between the Chargers and Chiefs will be no cake walk for either team. Both teams are playing well and are vying for a spot atop the AFC West. There is no doubt that this will be a dog fight until the end.
But, with that said, the Chargers do look like they are the more complete team at this point, and to prove it, they will need to do some things well in this Monday night showdown in Kansas City.
Here is a step-by-step process of how the Chargers can come into Arrowhead and move on to 5-2 on the year.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F.
The Chargers need to put the ball in the Chiefs' court early. Though the Chargers are 4-2, they have not executed well early in games and have let lesser teams stay in the game. To win at the toughest stadium to play in in the AFC West, the Chargers must come in guns blazing and silence a crowd that will most definitely be pumped up for this prime time game.
Take some chances early (*Cough* Norv...). Big plays go a long way in changing momentum on the road. Don't wait until the second half to pull out the big play calls. Even taking unsuccessful shots down the field can silence a crowd. Look for Philip Rivers to target a Chiefs secondary that has been torched by big, more physical, receivers.
Step 2: Use the correct ingredients
Revis blah, blah, blah. Brandon Flowers blah, blah, blah. It doesn't matter who is on Vincent Jackson...GET HIM THE BALL. Yes, he had that one drop in the Jets game that started the Jets' comeback, but the man is still a top 10 receiver in the league. The Chargers have really gotten away from their weapons this year. Whether that is a product of Rivers under-preforming remains to be seen.
The fact is Vincent Jackson only has seven catches in the last three games. He is by far the Chargers' best offensive weapon with Gates on and off the field with his foot injury. Norv and Rivers need to do a better job of designing plays around Jackson. I am sure he is their No. 1 option on a variety of passing plays, but Rivers is either too content with three-yard dump offs, check downs to running backs, or he and Jackson are simply not on the same page.
Step 3: Mix well
Although big passing plays down the field will be the game changers, a solid running game that wears down the Chiefs' impressive pass rush will go a long way to opening up those longer passes.
The Chargers abandoned the running game late in the Jets game as they started to come back. Rivers got flustered in that game, and at one point in the second half went 1-for-10 with an interception. The Chargers played right into the Jets strength, their pass defense, and paid the price.
The Chiefs' strength on defense is also their pass defense, so Rivers and company will want to keep the ball on the ground and out of the hands of a Cassel-Bowe combination that has been impressive of late. Look for Mathews to be a focal point with outside rushes and more screens.
Step 4: Bake for 60 minutes
The Chargers have a history of sitting on two to three possession leads and losing site of their opponent. The play calling in the second half of the Jets game was very vanilla as Norv just tried to keep the lead instead of playing Chargers football. The Chargers took no shots down the field and were content with short crossing patterns and runs up the middle.
The Chargers NEED to play four quarters. It is what great teams do and the Chargers have not done this at any point under Norv's tenure. They either take a big lead early and let their opponents back in late or they get in an early hole and come storming back in the second half.
The Chargers need to keep the Chiefs in the oven the whole game.
Step 5: Spread on the icing
This is one thing the Chargers have done well this season (except for the Jets game). In the fourth quarter, when teams are either trying to put together a final drive or Rivers has a chance to put together a come closing drive, the Chargers come through. Weddle has been a big part of that with two game-clinching interceptions (one which came against the Chiefs at Qualcomm).
If it come down to the last drive, which is usually does in the hard-fought divisional games, the Chargers big time players must seal the deal.
Ice the proverbial cake...
Now only if playing, and winning, a football game could be as easy as 1-2-3.