With the big AFC West showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs coming Thursday night, it should not be lost on the Chargers that one of their best games under second-year coach Anthony Lynn came on a short week.
They rolled up 515 yards in a 28-6 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day last year. Philip Rivers completed 27 of 33 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns, and Keenan Allen caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a score.
The Chargers (10-3) are cramming the usual six days of preparation into three days again this week to take on the Chiefs (11-2) in Kansas City.
“I thought we handled this situation really well last year — we got the results we wanted,” Lynn said Tuesday. “You call coaches that have been successful [on Thursday nights], you kind of pick their brains on what they did, and a lot of it is just recovery, the things you do to help your players recover.”
Most players began treatment and had massages to work the lactic acid out of muscles Sunday night, after a 26-21 victory over Cincinnati. Practices on Monday and Tuesday were light, conducted at a walkthrough pace without pads. Mental preparation and film study were emphasized over on-field reps.
Trainers stressed proper nutrition, rest and stretching. Some players did yoga, though Rivers, the 37-year-old who is a throwback when it comes to training methods, was not part of the downward dog and Warrior 1 set.
Asked Tuesday how often he has done yoga, Rivers said, “Uh … never.”
Has he tried NormaTec pulse therapy or cryotherapy?
“I’m about as old school as it gets,” Rivers said. “Maybe an ice pack every once in a while, but that’s about it.”
Melvin Gordon, who sat out the last two games because of a right-knee sprain, was a limited participant in practice and probably won’t know until just before kickoff whether he will play against the Chiefs.
“It will be a game-time decision,” said Gordon, who has a combined 1,255 yards rushing and receiving and 13 touchdowns. “I know coach is trying to be careful. He doesn’t want me to further hurt myself, so we’ll see where that goes. But I’m a lot stronger, a lot more confident than I was last week.”
Lynn said he’s “hopeful” that Gordon will play, “but if he’s not ready, he’s not going to play,” the coach said. Backup Austin Ekeler, who suffered a neck injury and a possible concussion Sunday, appears doubtful for Thursday night.
If Gordon and Ekeler can’t go, rookies Justin Jackson, the former Northwestern star who rushed eight times for 63 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 33-30 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 2, and Detrez Newsome, who has only five NFL carries, would share duties at running back.
“With both of those guys, there’s no stress,” Gordon said. “They were born to do this. They’re going to go in there and make plays if they have to.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes can turn an NFL game into a night at the Improv. The elusive rookie gunslinger has made off-balance throws on the run to his left and to his right, while in the grasp of defenders, and he even threw a short pass with his left hand to Tyreek Hill against Denver on Oct. 1.
Mahomes’ Paul Bunyan-sized legend grew even more Sunday when he threw what appeared to be a no-look pass to receiver Demarcus Robinson for a 17-yard gain just before halftime of the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime win over Baltimore.
Mahomes, who has completed 322 of 482 passes for an NFL-best 4,300 yards and 43 touchdowns, avoided two defenders and was drifting to the right when he fired a pass to his left to Robinson on a crossing route.
A slow-motion replay showed that Mahomes’ head and eyes were pointed straight downfield when he released the ball.
“I saw his no-look pass — it was nice,” Chargers safety Derwin James said. “I’ve never seen that before. That’s pretty sweet that he can do that. … I feel like he’s getting better every week. He has over 40 TDs, he’s making crazy throws, sidearm throws, no-look throws, so you know what you’re getting this week.”
Chiefs speedster Hill, who has caught 74 passes for 1,258 yards and 11 touchdowns, was limited by heel and wrist injuries in practice “but I would think he’ll be OK for the game,” coach Andy Reid said in a conference call. “He’s moving around all right.”
Kansas City running back Spencer Ware appears questionable because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, and receiver Sammy Watkins appears doubtful because of a foot injury. There is a chance that safety Eric Berry, sidelined since the 2017 season opener because of heel injuries, will play.