Monday, October 31, 2011
Chiefs look like a new team, host Chargers
In a divisional rematch that looks much better than it did early in the season, the San Diego Chargers visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football (ESPN, 8:30 ET).
Back in Week 3 the Chargers beat the Chiefs to improve to 2-1 while Kansas City dropped to 0-3. A Chiefs victory tonight, coupled with the Raiders’ bye this week, would create a three-way tie atop the AFC West.
The Chiefs would become the first team since the 2000 Pittsburgh Steelers to start a season 0-3 and win its next four games.
Kansas City’s turnaround can be attributed to ball security; they turned the ball over nine times in the first two games and got outscored 89-10. In the past four games, starting with their three-point loss to the Chargers in Week 3, the Chiefs have three turnovers total.
Despite the loss of star RB Jamaal Charles to injury for the season, the Chiefs have not abandoned the running game.
During their 0-3 start they averaged fewer than 25 rush plays per game (T-17th in NFL), but during their 3-0 resurgence, they’re averaging 35 rush plays, the most per game during that span.
The Chargers are one of just six teams in the NFL to allow fewer than 300 yards per game but are just 18th in scoring defense. A few of the reasons are their inability to sack the quarterback, create turnovers and stop teams on third down.
On the offensive side, rookie Blaine Gabbert is the only qualified quarterback other than Philip Rivers who has not thrown a touchdown pass against five or more pass rushers this season. Over the previous three seasons, Rivers had the third-best touchdown-to-interception differential against added pass pressure.
The loss of Darren Sproles and the injury to Antonio Gates took away Rivers’ two most targeted receivers on throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Without Sproles and with Gates injured, Rivers has had to look elsewhere in 2011 and is getting intercepted more.
He’s thrown six picks within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage -- twice as many interceptions as touchdowns after throwing just eight picks on throws of that distance the previous three years combined.
Rivers has thrown nine interceptions in six games this season, the most ever for him in a six-game span (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). Because of that, Rivers is just 15th in the NFL in Total QBR this season, just one spot ahead of his opponent, Matt Cassel.