Chiefs

Chiefs would be wise to get Travis Kelce going early against the Chargers

Quick turnaround for Chiefs to play Thursday night against Chargers

The Kansas City Chiefs played on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and players and coaches are working quickly to prepare for Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.
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The Kansas City Chiefs played on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and players and coaches are working quickly to prepare for Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs host a nationally televised AFC West showdown against the team with the second-best record in the conference as the Los Angeles Chargers visit Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.

Here are the keys for a Chiefs’ division title-clinching win:

Keys to victory

1. Force Phil to turn it over

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown just six interceptions this season, and four have come in their three losses. The Chiefs sacked him just once in the first game of the season, but applying pressure and keeping him from dropping back comfortably and throwing from a clean pocket could be the difference in the outcome of the game. In the Chargers’ loss to the Denver Broncos, he threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. He’s only been sacked three or more times in a game twice this season.

2. Get Kelce involved

All-Pro tight end and 1,000-yard pass catcher Travis Kelce had almost no impact as a receiving threat in the season opener. He had only one catch on six targets. With Tyreek Hill playing through injury, Sammy Watkins out and Kelvin Benjamin having been on the roster less than a week, Kelce should play a prominent role in a successful offensive game plan.

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3. Contain Allen for four quarters

The Chiefs limited Keenan Allen to two catches for 16 yards in the first half of their first meeting this season. Then Allen pulled in six catches for 92 yards in the second half. With the backfield tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler either on the shelf or banged up, the Chargers may lean more heavily on Allen. Gordon and Ekeler combined for 18 catches and 189 receiving yards against the Chiefs in the season opener.

4. Run when needed

The Chiefs seemingly had the previous meeting in hand, but their attempts to run the ball and eat up the clock sputtered late in that game. Despite Spencer Ware doubtful due to injury Thursday night, the Chiefs will have to find ways to control the ball at times.

Scheme

Chargers’ head coach

After an 0-4 start last season, Anthony Lynn’s has gone 19-6 in his tenure as Chargers head coach. The 10-3 start to this season marks the fourth time in franchise history they’ve had such a start, most recently in 2009. A former all-conference running back at Texas Tech, Lynn played 83 games in the NFL from 1992 through 1999. He was part of two Super Bowl championships as a player with Denver. He turned to coaching in 2000 and worked his way up the ranks as a running backs coach and he had a one-game stint as interim head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Offense

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will put receivers up in varying alignments in order to exploit coverage vulnerabilities. Rivers works out of the shotgun primarily: 66 percent of team’s offensive snaps came out of the shotgun compared to 34 percent under center last season. They ran almost 75 percent of the time with the quarterback under center. This season, Rivers has the highest rating of any quarterback when operating from under center (143.1). The Chargers rank among the top 10 in least amount of pressure allowed on their quarterback (25.1 percent of dropbacks). The Chargers rank fourth in yards per carry when rushing on first down (5.2).

Defense

Coordinator Gus Bradley, former Jacksonville’s head coach, runs a 4-3 scheme. Bradley worked under Pete Carroll in Seattle when the “Legion of Boom” defense provided the identity of the team. The Chargers rely on a four-man rush and line stunts to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They’ll play a mix of zone (cover 3) and man-to-man bump-and-run coverage. They rank among the top 10 in red zone defense, having allowed touchdowns on 51.2 percent of opponents’ red zone possessions.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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