3TFO: Chiefs @ Chargers, Week 9
In Week 4, the Chargers and Chiefs faced off for the first time this season. In that game San Diego had an opening drive go nine plays and 76 yards for a touchdown. A Kansas City interception on their first drive led to a Chargers field goal, and a fumble on the Chiefs 5-yard line on their second led to another San Diego touchdown. A 17-0 deficit just 10 minutes into the game is one that is very hard to get out of.
Since that game both teams have been in a funk. The Chargers gave the Saints one of their two victories, allowed the Broncos to make one of the largest comebacks in NFL history, and could only put up six points against the Browns. The Chiefs have been outscored 73-32 in their last three games. On the bright side, we should see a much closer game than we did Week 4 and someone has to come out with the victory.
Chargers Short Pass Game vs. Chiefs Pass Defense
In the Week 4 matchup of the Chargers and Chiefs, no individual receiver had a great game, but San Diego found a lot of success on short passes. Over half of the Philip Rivers pass attempts were on throws where the ball was in the air for 6 yards or less. He completed all 12 of those passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. They often took advantage of Eric Berry who allowed all seven passes thrown his way to be caught for 97 yards in the game.
However, the Chargers’ pass offense has cooled down since that matchup while the Chiefs’ pass defense has improved. Over the last two games Rivers has averaged 5.3 yards per attempt compared to 7.4 in the five games prior. His receivers haven’t given him much help with three drops in each of the last two games compared to five total in the first five. Over the last three games the Chiefs’ defense has allowed just 66.6% of passes to be caught when the ball was in the air for 6 yards or less, and 43.5% on passes where the ball is in the air for more than six yards. A short passing game is unlikely to be as successful as it was in Week 4, so the Chargers will need a more diverse offensive attack in order to score as many points.
Jeromey Clary vs. Justin Houston
On the season, Rivers has an Accuracy Percentage of 57.4 percent when under pressure which is 25th-best of the current starters. One of the men most responsible for keeping the defense away from Rivers is right tackle Jeromey Clary — a consistently strong run blocker, he’s had an up-and-down season in pass protection. Against the Titans, Saints and Broncos, Clary has allowed six sacks, one hit, and nine hurries. That is terrible compared to his games against the Raiders, Falcons and Browns where he allowed just one hit and four hurries. His best game of the season was easily against the Chiefs where he didn’t allow a single pressure.
That is also one of two games where our Mid-Season All-Pro left outside linebacker Justin Houston was held without a pressure. However, there have been games where Houston has taken over with his pass rush. For example, against the Ravens where he had two sacks and six hurries or the Saints where he had three sacks, a hit, and three hurries. It’s unlikely that Clary will blank Houston again and if the outside linebacker can dominate it will go a long way in disrupting the Chargers’ pass game. If not, Rivers should have all day to throw yet again.
Dwayne Bowe vs. Chargers Defensive Backs
In the Week 4 matchup, Dwayne Bowe was the Chiefs’ main source of offense. He was thrown at 12 times, and caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. While Bowe hasn’t had as much success in recent weeks, that seems to have more to do with Brady Quinn than Bowe. When Matt Cassel is the Chiefs’ quarterback, Bowe has 1.89 Yards per Route Run, while when Quinn is quarterback that is down to 0.88.
So far this season, the Chargers have lined up Quentin Jammer at left cornerback, Antoine Cason at right cornerback and Marcus Gilchrist in the slot regardless of the receiver across from them. Bowe only lines up in the slot on 2.9% of pass routes, and in most games Bowe lines up on the right side of the offense more than the left. The only exception to that came against the Chargers where he lined up as the left wide receiver more often to take advantage of the matchup against Cason. That strategy worked as 90 of Bowe’s 108 yards in that game came against Cason. In 2011, there were a few games where the Chargers moved their cornerbacks around depending on the offense, so it will be interesting to see if San Diego shows a willingness to do this for the first time in 2012. If not, look for Bowe to line up on the left more than the right in an attempt to take advantage of Cason once again.
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