After waiting a long and productive offseason, we are one week away from what we’ve all been waiting for.
Joey Bosa is in the building, preseason is over and it’s time to really focus on Kansas City. This is already a must-win divisional road game that will set up our approach to the rest of the season, so let’s take a look at some keys to us stealing a win from the Chiefs in their home opener.
Aug 28, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman (23) tackles San Diego Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin (12) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings won 23-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s take a look at the offense. Last season, the Chiefs’ defensive front seven almost completely kept us from getting anything going. Whether it was run or pass, they had an answer. Good news for the Chargers is OLB Justin Houston will probably not be playing, taking away arguably their best player on the team. The Chargers will have to, and I reiterate, HAVE TO, get the running game going to keep this defense honest on every snap. When teams are allowed to rush every play because they know they can stop the run, it creates an immediate disadvantage for us and usually doesn’t have the best results. If we can keep them honest, we absolutely can expose them.
The Chargers’ receiving corps are looking strong, and with our running backs and tight ends, we can have multiple receiving threats on the field at once. This makes it difficult to double team our known receivers like Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. The O-line is the ultimate key. If holes open up for Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers isn’t under heavy duress, we can pick any NFL defense apart. If the plays have time to develop, we all know Rivers can take the ball down the field as good as anyone in the league. It will also be our first chance to see how well Travis Benjamin and Allen complement each other on offense, and how well they get open against a good secondary that features Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Eric Berry .
On defense, we have some players who need to step up big. The “bend don’t break” defense works, but I’d much rather see my defense off the field sooner rather than later. If we learned anything from the preseason, it was that teams are looking to expose the Chargers in the middle of the field. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had a touchdown pass on a post route, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs was thriving, catching passes on slants and getting yards after the catch.
Linebacker Manti Te’o is in the middle of our defense and will need to do a better job in coverage to avoid big plays and easy conversions by another Pro Bowler in tight end Travis Kelce. The secondary has played well in its short amount of snaps and will be a strength going into this game, so long as the defensive line can apply sufficient pressure. Brandon Flowers may be tested early on, and it will be key to see if he’s back to form or if he will be a liability deep down the field again.
Defensive linemen Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane have to put pressure on the line along with outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu and Kyle Emanuel on the outside. It isn’t known yet whether or not we will see Bosa, the No. 3 overall pick, but if he plays he and the line will be tasked with keeping the Chiefs’ strong running game in check. There is a possibility we will see Jamaal Charles, and even if they don’t, the Chiefs have talent at running back and will come out and try to establish a run game early on.
Sep 1, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) looks on from the field before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Often overlooked, we need our special teams to be a key factor in Sunday’s matchup. Punter Drew Kaser has been punting balls deep and pinning teams back behind the 20-yard line. He will need to continue this in order to keep our defense’s chances higher of getting off the field. The team has to make plays on special teams, as it could be the difference between walking away winners and leaving as losers come Sunday.
These are key factors in the game that if the Chargers execute well enough, we should leave Arrowhead Stadium 1-0.