The Kansas City Chiefs are so fast that even their fullback, a man who goes by the nickname “The Sausage,” is a speedster.
Or, at least, Anthony Sherman was for one day, when he showed up for the start of training camp in July in Clint Bowyer’s race car.
The 5-foot-10, 242-pound Sherman explained that he figured turning to NASCAR was the only way he could keep up with his turbo-boosted teammates.
“They’ve always been fast, but they’ve even upgraded,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “You have to stay on top. You can’t let these guys get behind you. We have to eliminate explosive plays as much as we can.”
When these AFC West rivals meet Monday night in Mexico City, the Chargers will be faced with containing an attack that has been dubbed the “Legion of Zoom.”
The Chiefs already had the likes of veteran receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins and then they used a second-round pick on Mecole Hardman, who last week hit 21.87 mph on a 63-yard touchdown reception.
No one in the NFL has run faster on a completed pass this season.
“They love to get those guys in space,” Lynn said. “I’m talking about two-yard routes turning into 50-yard plays.”
In their season-opener last year — a 38-28 loss to Kansas City — the Chargers were left gagging on the Chiefs’ fumes.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes had completions of 36, 34, 30, 21 and 20 yards. He also had a 58-yard touchdown pass to Hill, who topped out at 21.95 mph en route to the end zone.
That came after Hill — he calls himself “Cheetah” — reached 21.78 mph on a 91-yard punt return for touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
“They do a really good job of spreading you out and using the whole width of the field,” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “With that, we can’t leave it to one guy to make a tackle. They’re too talented that way. We always preach running to the ball. But, boy, we need everybody getting there.”
When Bradley’s defense met Kansas City’s speed the second time last season, the Chiefs produced only three plays from scrimmage that netted as many as 20 yards.
The Chargers won that night 29-28, a dramatic, last-moment triumph highlighting a season that ended one week short of the AFC title game.
The matchup Monday will be the first time these teams have played against one another since then.
To have any chance, the Chargers will have to put the brakes on an offense built to blur.
“It’s just space, space tackling,” Lynn said. “I think our defense the last couple weeks has done a much better job of space tackling. I’m talking about multiple guys getting to the ball on time.
“It’s easy for a guy to lose a one-on-one every now and then. But when you have two and three guys swarming to the ball, that way you can cause some turnovers. … We definitely have to do that against this group.”
Williams plays big
He has produced catches of 43, 56 and 45 yards over the last three games, each one of them leading to a Chargers score.
There is no denying the impact Mike Williams has had lately on the offense, including the first 100-yard receiving game in his career in Week 9 against Green Bay.
Williams’ recent surge also has been an example of a player making the most of limited opportunities.
Over those last three games, Williams has only eight catches. He has been targeted just three times each of the last two weeks.
“We have a lot of people we’re trying to get the ball to,” Lynn said. “Mike has made some huge plays for us the last couple weeks. He’s made the plays when his number’s been called. But, yeah, we’d like to get him the ball more if we can.”
After catching 10 touchdown passes and running for another score last season, Williams still has yet to reach the end zone in 2019.
The Chargers are listing left tackle Russell Okung (groin), safety Roderic Teamer (groin) and long snapper Cole Mazza (illness) as questionable for the game Monday.
Okung didn’t practice this week, while Teamer and Mazza practiced fully Saturday.
Right tackle Sam Tevi (knee) will not play.