Chargers’ defensive keys to victory vs. Chiefs

·3 min read

The Chargers’ defense looked as advertised in Week 1, given their investment on that side of the ball this offseason.

With Patrick Mahomes lining up across from them in Week 2, it’s one of the biggest tests of the year.

Here are four keys for Los Angeles’ defense to limit Kansas City:

Make the anonymous beat you

Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for 14 catches for 200 yards and a TD against the Cardinals, with all other receivers collecting 16 catches for 160 yards. Derwin James will likely line up against Kelce, with Bryce Callahan likely on Smith-Schuster in the slot. Mahomes hasn’t had much issue producing with less than household names catching the ball from him, but making the likes of Mecole Hardman and Skyy Moore beat you on Thursday will crank the difficulty down a touch.

Keep the pressure up

LA had six sacks against Las Vegas, with Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa combining for 4.5 of them. Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., meanwhile, allowed five pressures, tied for eighth most in the league, to a Cardinals team whose best pass rusher was Dennis Gardeck. Nothing against Gardeck, but he’s not exactly the same caliber as Bosa or Mack. Brandon Staley told NFL Network on Tuesday that getting pressure against Mahomes and keeping him in the pocket will be a key part of the gameplan, with defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill calling Mahomes “a whole different player” when he escapes contain.

Don’t sell out on the pass

For as good as Patrick Mahomes is, the Chargers must keep one eye on the run game, especially in the red zone. With a revamped offensive line, Andy Reid has had the freedom to get creative with his run scheme over the last season or so, which has paid big dividends for the Chiefs backs. However, neither Clyde Edwards-Helaire nor Jerick McKinnon ranked in the top 30 of yards after contact per rushing attempt, per PFF, suggesting that wrapping Kansas City up early will be effective. Rookie Isiah Pacheco did accumulate 3.71 yards after contact per attempt, but those stats might be a bit noisy considering Pacheco did the majority of his damage after the game was well in hand for Kansas City.

Capitalize on turnover opportunities

The Chiefs fumbled five times on Sunday, only losing one of them to Arizona. It was a similar story at SoFi, where LA forced three Raiders fumbles but failed to recover a single one of them. That said, one Derek Carr fumble did result in a turnover because it occurred on fourth down. Regardless, if Kansas City is going to continue to have problems hanging onto the ball, the Chargers must be in a position to fall on it and give Justin Herbert and company more chances with the ball. This game profiles as a shootout, as it has been every time Herbert and Mahomes have met on the field. Having the ball bounce LA’s way even one time more than it bounces KC’s way could be the difference.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire