For Pete's Sake

Five things to know about the Chargers, the Chiefs’ next opponent

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon celebrated with teammate wide receiver Keenan Allen during Sunday’s game.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon celebrated with teammate wide receiver Keenan Allen during Sunday’s game. The Associated Press

A week ago, some fans weren’t sure they wanted to go to the Chiefs’ game against the Chargers this Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.

But that game is now setting up as an AFC West championship game. Both teams have a 7-6 record. If the Chiefs win, they will have a tie-breaker on Los Angeles and essentially be up two games with two to play. If the Chargers win, they’ll be in the driver’s seat, having a one-game lead with two to play.

So it’s not quite a title game, but it’s going to be huge for each team’s fortunes.

Here are five things to know about the Chargers, who will take on the Chiefs on Saturday night. Kickoff is at 7:25 p.m. and the game is on the NFL Network.

1. The offense

Los Angeles has won four straight and the offense has been red hot. The Chargers have outscored opponents 131-53 during the streak and have gained 731 more yards than their opponents in that time. During the sterak, the Chargers have averaged 465 yards a game.

On Sunday, the Chargers also did something on offense for the first time this season: they got points on their opening drive. Travis Coons made a 33-yard field goal to give LA a 3-0 lead.

Los Angeles is fifth in total offense (372.7 yards per game) and third in passing (273.2 ypg). The Chargers’ offensive line has been sensational, as quarterback Philip Rivers has been sacked a league-low 15 times.

2. Rivers

Rivers has been on a tear during the winning streak with 1,348 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

Here was Rivers’ first touchdown pass Sunday against Washington, a nice 8-yard toss to tight end Hunter Henry:

For the season, Rivers has completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,611 yards with 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

On Sunday, Rivers moved ahead of Warren Moon for ninth place in NFL history in career passing yards. Rivers has 49,444 yards. Moon threw for 49,325 yards in his NFL career.

3. The receivers

Keenan Allen had an incredible three-game streak snapped on Sunday. Allen had caught at least 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in his three previous games, and that was an NFL record.

On Sunday, Allen had six receptions for 111 yards, which is a nice consolation prize.

Tyrell Williams also had a big game for the Chargers on Sunday, with 132 yards receiving. Seventy-five yards came on this play, and it looked way too easy for the Chargers:

“We’re going to take shots down the field,” coach Anthony Lynn told the Los Angeles Times. “Tyrell has speed, so he’s part of that shot package. We tried to get him the ball early.”

4. The defense

The Chargers have allowed 22 total points in their last three games*, and the defense kept Washington to just nine first downs on Sunday.

*Washington scored on a pick-six on Sunday

Washington had just 201 yards of offense and converted on only two of 12 third-down attempts. The Chargers created one turnover on Sunday, but they have intercepted 11 passes in their last five games.

“I think defensively, we have really started to become comfortable with this defense,” linebacker Kyle Emanuel said on the team’s website. “I think it took a little bit, but we are playing well. It’s fun to be a part of and fun to watch and see how different guys go out there, play well and come away with some wins.”

However, the Chargers’ rushing defense is tied for 29th in the NFL with the Chiefs, allowing 124.8 yards per game.

5. Special teams

The Chargers’ 7-6 record likely would be better if not for some dreadful kicking earlier in the season. Younghoe Koo had a disastrous start to the season and was cut. Nick Novak was signed and he did well, until a back injury ended his season.

Coons, who was signed earlier this month, has been solid in his two games, making seven of eight field-goal attempts. The Associated Press noted that Coons made all three tries on Sunday and it was only the second time this year the Chargers made multiple field goals without missing an attempt.

Chargers punter Drew Kaser is fourth in the NFL with a 48.9-yard average. However, his net average on punts is 41.4, which ranks 13th, and he’s allowed the most touchdbacks (eight).

The Chargers also have the fifth-worst defensive average in kickoff returns, allowing 24.9 yards per kick.

The Kansas City Chiefs 2017 season has been one of many ups and downs.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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