NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - INSIDE SLANT
To a man, the Kansas City Chiefs vow that Sunday's divisional contest against the San Diego Chargers is not a "trap" game, despite being sandwiched between showdowns agains the Denver Broncos.
"This is no trap game," free safety Kendrick Lewis said when asked if the Chiefs would overlook San Diego. "The Chargers are the next team up. We know what comes after that (the Broncos), but we don't play that game until next week. We are focused on the Chargers."
The Chiefs are now 9-1 and tied for first place with the Broncos. They play host to the 4-6 Chargers at the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium in the first part of a two-game home stand. Game No. 2 is the return matchup against Denver after losing 27-17 at Sports Authority Field last Sunday night.
"Denver does not have anything to do with this week," said outside linebacker Tamba Hali. "We went over the tape, we know what we didn't get done and now we have to come back and play better and get things done against San Diego. That's what matters."
It helps the Chiefs' cause that the Chargers are a division rival and the game is at Arrowhead. Winning at home and winning in the division are priorities that have been established with this team and the Chiefs can double up on those goals by beating San Diego. They are currently 5-0 at home and 1-1 in the AFC West.
"All you have to do is turn on the tape and you can see that the Chargers are a good team," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They have an offense that can move the ball, a defense that's going to blitz and bring people from all over the place and they are solid in the kicking game.
"It's important that we learn from what happened (losing to Denver). We have to bring ourselves back as a stronger team."
What's going to trap the Chiefs in their plan for victory over the last six games on the schedule is an offense that's still struggling to establish consistency and even an identity. The Chiefs were unable to take advantage of several opportunities their defense created in Denver in terms of good field position.
"You turn on the tape and look at it and it was all little things," quarterback Alex Smith said of the offensive performance against Denver. "There were little things here, little things there. That's what results in the inability to move the football. The details of everything - we need to do a better job with that. If we focus on the little things, they will take care of it."
The Chiefs showed more of a willingness to throw the ball deep in the Denver game. Generally, Smith seldom throws passes that fly 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage; in 10 games, he has thrown an average 2.2 passes per game for more than 20 yards. Overall, he has completed just 7 of 22 pass attempts that have traveled more than 20 yards in the air this season. Against the Broncos, he threw four passes for 20-plus yards, something that has happened in only one previous game, against Tennessee.
"I think offensively you have to be able to attack all parts of the field," Smith said. "That changes from week-in to week-out depending on how a defense is playing you. Certainly if a defense is getting aggressive, you need to be able to take advantage of shots down the field."
As the season has gone on and opponents have more tape to analyze Reid's offense, the Chiefs are seeing more and more man-to-man coverage in the passing game. That's largely due to their lack of speed at wide receiver, where only Donnie Avery can out run most defensive backs. Plus, opponents are crowding the box with safeties, pulling them closer to the line of scrimmage to deal with the ability of running back Jamaal Charles.
Reid is the offensive play caller on game day and he points to himself as one area that must improve when they possess the football.
"We know we need to put our guys in better positions to utilize all of their strengths," Reid said. "We can still keep defenses off-balance. We've seen a lot of man coverage; they're packing the box. That's a point where you have to do some things throwing the ball. You try to mix and match it the best you possibly can."
SERIES HISTORY: this will be the 106th regular-season game between these original members of the American Football League. The series is tied at 52-52-1. The Chargers won both games last year, by 17 points in Kansas City and 18 points in San Diego. The Chiefs' last victory in the series was in 2011 at Arrowhead Stadium in a 23-20 overtime game.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - NOTES, QUOTES
Over the past four NFL seasons (2010-13) no starting quarterback has done a better job of not throwing the ball to the opponent than the Chiefs' Alex Smith. He has thrown 24 interceptions in that time, fewer than Aaron Rodgers (29), Tom Brady (31), Michael Vick (33) and Peyton Manning (34). Among the quarterbacks that have started every game for their team in 2013, Smith has the fewest interceptions with just four in 10 games. Brady, Manning, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and Russell Wilson are tied for second, each with six interceptions.
-- The Chiefs offense has come out of the blocks slowly in the last two games and has left the team behind both Buffalo by seven points and Denver by 10 points. Coach Andy Reid wants to find a way to get his team off the mark early in the game. "
We are not starting fast enough right now," Reid said. "We have to do a better job of taking advantage of situations presented to us early by our defense. We just aren't making that happen."
The Chiefs have scored an average of 5.1 points per game in the first quarter, with only four offensive touchdowns and only one in the last eight games.
-- The Chiefs and Chargers share one thing in common despite the five-game difference in their 2013 records - both teams love to hold onto the football. San Diego is ranked No. 3 in the league in average time of possession at 32 minutes, 32 seconds per game. Kansas City ranks No. 5 at 32:01 on the season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 - That's the number of non-offensive touchdowns the Chiefs have scored so far in the 2013 season, or more than any other team in the league. They have four interception returns, two fumble returns and a punt return score.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're a young football team and we have to get better. I know that too. There are no excuses, zero. We'll get it right." -- Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on how his team will bounce back from its first loss of the season.
NFL Team Report - Kansas City Chiefs - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
-- RB Jamaal Charles has struggled to find yards on the ground against the San Diego defense; in eight games he has run for 400 yards on 75 carries. That's a nice 5.3-yard per carry average, but he has averaged just 50 yards per game. Charles also has caught 13 passes for 122 yards and a TD reception.
-- WR Dwayne Bowe has played 11 games against the Chargers in his career, grabbing 52 catches for 678 yards and 5 touchdown receptions.
-- QB Alex Smith will make his third career start against San Diego this Sunday. He's 0-2 in those previous games, having completed 39 of 60 passes for 379 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions against the Chargers.
-- LB Derrick Johnson faces the Chargers for the 13th time this weekend. In a dozen previous games, Johnson has 62 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions.
-- LB Tamba Hali has always been very productive when playing against the Chargers, picking up 10.5 sacks in 12 games. Hali also has 50 total tackles and one of his two career interceptions against San Diego.
-- CB Brandon Flowers has two interceptions in nine games against San Diego with 44 return yards. He also has 41 total tackles against the Chargers.
-- SS Eric Berry has played four games against the Chargers, with 27 total tackles and two interceptions.
-- DE Mike DeVito did not practice Wednesday due to a sprained left knee suffered last Sunday night against Denver. MRI results were encouraging and DeVito may miss a game or two, but it wasn't a season-ending sprain.
-- DE Tyson Jackson did not practice Wednesday due to a strained abdominal muscle that he suffered last Sunday night against Denver. MRI results indicated that Jackson's stomach while sore, should not keep him out for a significant period of time.
-- RT Eric Fisher did not practice on Wednesday due to a sore shoulder from last Sunday night's game against the Broncos in Denver. MRI results gave the Chiefs hope that Fisher will play against San Diego.
-- RG Jon Asamoah took part in practice Wednesday and appears to be headed for returning to the field on Sunday against the Chargers. Asamoah left the game against the Broncos in Denver with a spasm in a calf and a sore shoulder.
GAME PLAN: The Chiefs and Chargers both started over in 2013, each with new general managers and head coaches. At the 10-game mark of the season, Kansas City (9-1) has a five-game edge on San Diego (4-6). But Chiefs coach Andy Reid's team is coming off its first defeat of the season and how they react will be a subject of attention in game No. 11. They have the advantage of playing at home, where they have not lost this season. The Chargers are in the throes of a three-game losing streak, falling by a combined 18 points to Washington, Denver and Miami.
Reid's team must return to its formula for success it followed in the season's first half - a defense that sacks the quarterback and takes the ball away, an offense that doesn't turn the ball over and a special teams that makes some plays.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
-- Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston vs. Chargers right tackle D.J. Fluker: Despite the loss to the Broncos and the 27 points the K.C. defense allowed, the best player on the field Sunday night in Denver was Houston. He did not have a sack, but he was very good against the run, finishing as the Chiefs' leading tackler with 10 stops. He has made strides in the 2013 season to be a complete outside linebacker on the strong side of the offense. Fluker was pick No. 11 in the first-round of the 2013 NFL Draft and like most rookie blockers; he has looked good at times and struggled in other moments. Over the last month, he has been flipped between left and right tackle because of injuries and that may have contributed to his inconsistency. Whether he's on the right side facing Houston, or flipped to the left side to face outside linebacker Tamba Hali, Fluker will need a good game in pass protection.
-- Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith vs. Chargers free safety Eric Weddle: Over the last four years Smith has been among the best quarterbacks in the NFL at ball security and this year has just four interceptions. Through the years, Weddle has been a takeaway champion for the San Diego defense, including seven interceptions in 2011. The K.C. offense does not have a lot of areas that would be called strengths after 10 games of this season, but one has definitely been they don't give the ball away - just nine giveaways, the lowest total in the league. San Diego's defense has just seven takeaways, tied for the fewest in the league.