Coming off their first loss, the Kansas City Chiefs find themselves in an unfamiliar position.
While another huge matchup with the Denver Broncos looms in Week 13, coach Andy Reid’s team will first try to get back on track Sunday against the struggling San Diego Chargers.
After holding opponents to 17 points or fewer in winning each of its first nine games, Kansas City (9-1) lost 27-17 at Denver in last Sunday’s much-anticipated showdown. The Chiefs, averaging an NFL-best 3.6 sacks, have now gone without one in consecutive weeks after failing to get any pressure on Peyton Manning.
“We played a good football team and they got us,” said Reid, whose team dropped into a first-place tie with the Broncos atop the AFC West. “We’ll bounce back. We’ll learn from our mistakes. There are plenty of things we’ll learn from here and get those fixed.
“We’ve got San Diego up next, so we’re not thinking about Denver right now. We’re moving on to San Diego and making sure that we get ready to play a good football team there. That’s No. 1.”
Though the Chargers (4-6) visit Arrowhead Stadium mired in a three-game losing streak, Kansas City knows better than to overlook them.
“As great as it is to win, it’s lousy when you lose. We have to find a way to deal with it,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “We have to find a way to get better and prepare for (Sunday). We see (the Broncos) again in two weeks, but we have to prepare for another big division game (Sunday). These games keep getting bigger.”
Smith, who ranks last among current NFL starters with 5.97 yards per attempt, completed just 21 of 45 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns against Denver. Jamaal Charles, averaging 118.6 yards from scrimmage to rank third in the league, was limited to a season-low 72 on 18 touches.
“I think the biggest thing is getting into a rhythm,” said Smith, who added 52 yards on the ground. “Moving some chains, getting consecutive plays ran, getting into the flow of the game, changing field position at a minimum. I think that’s where it starts.”
Charles could be in for a bigger day against a Chargers defense that has given up 5.0 yards per carry on the road, the NFL’s third-worst mark. Charles has compiled 473 yards from scrimmage and four total TDs in his last five matchups in the series.
While the Chargers have taken nine of 11 from Kansas City, another win could be hard to come by. San Diego has allowed 26.0 points per game and 1,240 yards of total offense during its skid.
“We’ve dug ourselves in this hole,” first-year coach Mike McCoy told the team’s official website. “As a football team, we’ll dig ourselves out. We have to find a way. Each man has to look at himself and figure a way out to play a little better and do their job better. And it starts with me as the head coach. So that’s what we’re going to do as a football team.”
The Chargers’ woes continued last Sunday in a 20-16 loss at Miami, their fourth road defeat in five games. Philip Rivers threw for 298 yards and Ryan Mathews had a season-high 127 on the ground, but San Diego was limited to its fewest points this season.
The Chargers, who according to McCoy missed 12 tackles, were also penalized 10 times for 76 yards. One negated a touchdown and another that negated a takeaway.
“‘That’s a bad example of how we want to play football. … We’ve got a lot of things to clean up,” said McCoy, whose defense was caught offsides five times. “That can’t happen. It’s not like it happened once. It happened numerous times. They’ve got to do a better job of focusing.”
The Chargers appear to have survived a scare with wideout Keenan Allen, who is expected to be fine after leaving Sunday’s loss with a knee injury. The rookie ranks 12th in the NFL with 583 receiving yards since Week 4.
Tight end Antonio Gates could also be a factor. His 13 touchdowns against Kansas City are his most against any opponent.
Mathews has gone over 100 yards in three of the last five games, a stretch during which he is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Chiefs have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher – or a rushing TD – at home.