How the Kansas City Chiefs can ensure they beat Chargers, avoid 1-2 start to season

·4 min read

Week 3 could provide a good rebound opportunity for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs (1-1) boast a dominant 31-5 record in the AFC West since 2015, and on Sunday they open divisional play against the Los Angeles Chargers (1-1).

The Chiefs are 64-57-1 all-time against the Chargers. But recent battles between the pair of AFC West rivals show how lopsided this series has been of late: Kansas City has won 12 of its last 14 matchups against the Chargers.

Here are four key areas to monitor for the Chiefs as they seek to improve to 2-1.

CONTAIN HERBERT

The Chiefs split their season series with the Chargers last season, and they certainly got a close look at talented L.A. quarterback Justin Herbert.

As a rookie last year, Herbert passed for a total of 613 yards in two games against the Chiefs, averaging 306.5 per game. He threw for four touchdowns with one interception.

Herbert enjoyed a successful first year in the NFL, with 4,336 passing yards and 31 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He’s considered one of the league’s rising stars.

Through two games this year, Herbert has passed for 675 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. The Chargers’ gunslinger presents a problem, and he has weapons in receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, tight end Jared Cook and versatile running back Austin Ekeler.

The Chiefs faced two run-focused offenses in this season’s opening weeks. The Chargers present their own challenge with Herbert under center.

“This will be a shift from the last two opponents, no question,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “You’ve got a week to get it done, scout teams. That’s the challenge defensively: to shift gears.”

DEFEND THE RUN

The Chiefs are about to get reacquainted with Ekeler, one of the NFL’s top dual-threat rushers.

“He’s the total three-down back,” Chiefs defensive tackle Jarran Reed said. “He can run the ball well, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, they get him involved in screens. I’m pretty sure they’re going to try and get the ball to him, based on what (they) put on film the past two games.”

So far, stopping the run has been an issue for the Chiefs. Through two games, they’ve allowed a league-worst 404 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Overall, they’re surrendering 32.5 points per game to opponents.

“It’s not to our standards,” Reed said, “and we have very high standards. Trust me, we’re definitely going to get on that, get down and just keep going, man.”

Ekeler won’t punish the Chiefs between the tackles like their previous two opponents, but he can hurt you in space, especially as a receiver out of the backfield. And the Chargers will surely test an NFL-worst run defense allowing 202 yards per game.

The Chiefs will be motivated to hold Ekeler and the Chargers’ running game to less than 100 yards Sunday.

ON THE FLIP SIDE

Led by star QB Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs aren’t struggling to score. They rank third in the league in that statistic, averaging 34 points per game.

Where the Chiefs are having problems, however, is establishing their own run game. Entering Week 3, the Chiefs’ rushing attack ranks a dismal 29th, averaging just 67.5 yards per game.

Second-year running back and former first-round draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire has rushed for 89 yards on 27 carries (3.3 yards per attempt, 44.5 yards per game).

It’s early in the season, though, and the Chiefs have time to improve. The improvement could start Sunday against a Chargers run defense currently ranked 30th against the run (162 yards per game).

TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS

Oddsmakers have the Chiefs as 6.5-point favorites Sunday.

But the home team must bury any disappointment still lingering from last week’s loss to the Ravens. Focus is key.

“I think everybody is ready to go,” Mahomes said. “We lost to a really good football team, and it was a really good football game, but it’s still a long season.

“We’ve got an AFC West opponent, a great football team, coming into town, so you’ve got to kind of turn the page and move on to the next opponent.”

Moving on means handling business at home in a game the Chiefs should win.

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