The San Diego Chargers showed last week why they are one of the top offensive teams in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs’ performance in Week 6 made the club realize it still has a long way to go defensively.
Looking to build on one of the best offensive performances in franchise history Sunday, San Diego visits a Kansas City team coming off one of the worst defensive efforts in the 47-year existence of the club.
San Diego (4-1) rolled up 421 yards of total offense last week in a 48-19 win at San Francisco, matching the seventh-highest scoring game in team history.
Kansas City (2-3), meanwhile, allowed 457 yards—its most in nearly 27 years—and tied the fourth-most points given up in franchise history with a 45-7 loss at Pittsburgh.
The Chargers were led last week by quarterback Philip Rivers and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Rivers passed for a career-high 334 yards and two touchdowns, while Tomlinson rushed for four TDs to surpass Lance Alworth’s team record of 83 touchdowns as San Diego rolled to its first 4-1 start since 2002.
Despite the strong performance, many of the Chargers weren’t satisfied.
Tomlinson ran for just 71 yards on 21 carries and hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards since gaining 131 in the season opener against Oakland. He has 407 rushing yards this season compared to 512 after the first five games of 2005.
“We’ve shown the ability to run the ball effectively,” said Tomlinson, who leads the NFL with seven rushing TDs. “I don’t think it will be a problem. We just have to tweak some things. We were passing the ball well (last week). That was our groove … throwing the football.”
Rivers agrees that the Chargers can improve in certain areas.
“It was a solid performance for us,” he said. “But you look at the tape, and there were plenty of things to correct out there.”
Kansas City has plenty to correct after its performance last week.
The Chiefs were playing well defensively before facing the Steelers, allowing a total of 463 yards in back-to-back wins over San Francisco and Arizona. The 457 yards of offense by Pittsburgh, though, was the highest total given up by Kansas City since it allowed 460 at San Diego on Nov. 25, 1979.
“We got beat, we got embarrassed and we got to learn from it,” first-year Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said. “We’ve got to regroup.”
Kansas City allows opponents to run for 129.0 yards per game, and will be facing a San Diego club that is second in the NFL in rushing offense with 158.2 yards per contest. Edwards, though, seems more concerned with trying to figure out how to score against the Chargers.
San Diego leads the league in total defense at 218.4 yards per game, and is third in points allowed at 11.0.
“When you look at San Diego they’re very physical on defense, have a very good active front seven,” Edwards said. “We’re going to have to play a whole lot better. We have to make this a competitive game early. We can’t get behind on these guys either, because when you do, they kind of suffocate you with their defense.”
The Chiefs will be looking to get running back Larry Johnson on track after he rushed for just 26 yards on 15 carries last week. Johnson, who ran for 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2005, is averaging a career-low 3.4 yards per carry this season.
“People are going to come and play us right now saying that we’ve got to stop Larry Johnson,” Edwards said. “That’s what you do when you have a good running back. When you play the San Diego Chargers who are you going to stop? LaDainian Tomlinson, that’s what you do when you’ve got a good running back.”
San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer led the Chiefs to a 104-65-1 record from 1989-98, including playoffs, and is 4-4 against Kansas City since taking over the Chargers in 2002. San Diego lost 20-7 at Kansas City last season to fall to 1-3 there under Schottenheimer.
“(Last week) was enjoyable, but in our business, it’s not what have you done for me lately, it’s what are you going to do next,” Schottenheimer said. “That’s how we have to approach it as we prepare for Kansas City, which is an awfully difficult place to play.”