Could Chiefs’ seemingly improved running game open things up for Travis Kelce in L.A.?

It’s been tough sledding for the Chargers against the run this season. They enter Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs game ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed and have surrendered more than 200 in a game three times this year.

Although the Chiefs have been hit or miss when it comes to successful running, they might have turned a corner last weekend using rookie Isiah Pacheco as their primary ball carrier. He had 82 of the team’s 155 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If the Chiefs can make some inroads on the ground Sunday, that might force the hand of a Chargers defender who often has come up big in these matchups because of his pass defense.

Safety Derwin James historically has performed well against the Chiefs, and especially against tight end Travis Kelce. You’ll recall James’ body-slam tackle of Kelce during the Chiefs’ 27-24 victory in September.

According to Pro Football Focus, when James and Kelce have been matched in coverage since James debuted in 2018, Kelce’s longest reception is 18 yards.

In last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, James lined up in five different positions and finished with 13 tackles The 49ers’ primary threat was in the running game, and that’s where James was needed.

The Chiefs have the 21st-ranked rushing offense, but last weekend’s performance may begin to open up things in that department ... and make defenses pay more respect to that possibility.

James vs. Kelce is always a key confrontation the Chargers and Chiefs meet. Here are some other players, besides quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, to keep an eye on Sunday evening:

Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney

What a great start for the newcomer. His first touch against the Jaguars was a touchdown reception. His third was a 32-yard jet-sweep. He added receptions of 23 and 22 yards, displaying speed and elusiveness. Toney played 44% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps last weekend. That number is likely to increase this weekend as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman are working their way back from injuries.

Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark

After serving a two-game suspension, Clark returns and is hoping to pick up where he left off. He had his best game of the season three weeks ago against the 49ers. The Chiefs have played good overall defense in their last two games, surrendering a season-low 17 points to the Titans and Jaguars. Carlos Dunlap, Malik Herring, Mike Danna and George Karlaftis got additional snaps with Clark out.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler

Ekeler must hold the record for appearances in this “players to watch” space. That speaks to his efficacy year in and year out. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo puts it this way: “Everybody (on defense) needs to know where No. 30 is, linemen included. That’s how much we respect him and how good he is.”

Chargers defensive tackle Tyeler Davison

An eight-year pro, Davison was signed by the Chargers from the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad after L.A. lost three defensive tackles to injuries — Austin Johnson, Otito Ogbonnia and Christian Covington — in the previous two games. Davison hasn’t appeared in a game this season but has started 86 games for the Falcons and Saints over the past seven years.