Chiefs prepared to get Chargers' best and final shot
NOV 21, 2013 1:44p ET
As safety Kendrick Lewis stated emphatically this week: "There are no trap games in this league. Everyone knows you have to play as hard as you can each week to get a win. It's that tough every week."
And what really should get the Chiefs' attention is that the Chargers are in full desperation mode.
The Chargers sit at 4-6, a game back in a frantic race for the final wild-card spot. Another Chargers loss almost surely puts them out of the playoff picture.
But a win by San Diego gives the Chargers renewed hope, especially knowing they will have four of their final five games at home.
The Chiefs say they are all aware of what's at stake for them and their opponent this week.
"It's always a tough game with them anyway," linebacker Tamba Hali said. "And you know they will give it everything they got because of where they are. We fully expect their best shot."
The biggest problem with the Chargers this season is that they continue to lose tight games. They have lost five games this year by eight points or less.
They blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half to Houston, lost in the final minute to Tennessee, would have beaten Washington if they could have scored from the half-yard line in the final minute, and whiffed against Miami last week because of poor clock management in the final minute.
But the Chargers also are capable of taking down just about anyone. They beat the Eagles, who now are smoking hot, and they handled the Cowboys and Colts with relative ease.
But the Chargers' season is on the brink, and the Chiefs have to be wary.
"It doesn't take you but a minute to look on film and see they're a good football team," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "Very explosive on offense and complex on defense with a lot of different looks."
And, of course, there is the desperation factor, though Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers downplays that summation.
"I don't believe in the whole, 'Win one game, and everything will turn around,' but we do need to win this game to get us to 5-6," Rivers told reporters this week. "We know we've got four of the last five at home, and then we can see what happens.
"We've just got to find a way to get a win. We haven't won in a month. Nobody's too thrilled about it."
Beating the Chiefs would soothe a lot of ails, and Rivers is the type of quarterback who could pose a problem for the Chiefs' defense.
Much like the Chiefs, the Chargers this season have displayed a station-to-station offense -- their longest pass play of the season is just 56 yards.
Rivers is missing many of his explosive targets from yesteryear -- Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles, etc. -- so he has focused more on prolonging possessions with shorter throws. In other words, he does what Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith aims to do each week, only better.
Rivers is completing a career-high 70.9 percent of his passes, and he is fourth in the NFL in passing yards with 2,989.
"He's a really good quarterback, probably one of the best in the game," Hali said. "We know that."
And like Peyton Manning did on Sunday night, expect Rivers to make his pre-snap reads and then deliver the ball quickly, especially toward All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates (56 catches, 664 yards) and check-down back Danny Woodhead (55 catches, 424 yards).
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton knows teams now are unloading the ball more quickly in recent games to avoid the Chiefs' pass rush. His counter punch?
"We have to get tighter in coverage so there are less places to go for the quarterback," Sutton said. "It will be the same type of approach we had the other night, only hopefully a little tighter."
But as Hali points out, the Chiefs' defense also must pay attention to Chargers running back Ryan Matthews, who has rushed for 666 yards and a 4.4 average.
"We have to stop him because he's running the ball really well this year," Hali said. "You stop him, and then you worry about (Rivers). We'll be ready."
They'll have to be.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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