How the Chargers plan to thwart Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs
An initial glance at the schedule might have made Chargers fans cringe.
The Kansas City Chiefs and their high-flying offense are set to march in to SoFi Stadium on Sunday, intent on unloading bomb after bomb into the end zone.
Coach Anthony Lynn said he respects the sheer firepower their AFC West rivals and reigning Super Bowl champions carry. But if recent history holds true, Lynn believes his defense can compete and give the Chargers a chance to win their first game in their shiny new home.
“They can be a matchup nightmare, but I think our defense has done a really good job of containing K.C. for the most part,” Lynn said. “If we take care of the ball and play our type of game, I look forward to playing these guys.”
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 league most valuable player, threw for more than 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last season en route to the Lombardi Trophy. But he threw for less than 200 yards in only three games, two of them against the Chargers’ defense. He also threw only two touchdowns against Los Angeles.
The Chargers lost both games by 10 points or less. Lynn attributes that to turnovers, with Phillip Rivers throwing a combined six interceptions. Cornerback Casey Hayward says that, even with the weapons Kansas City has, the defense feels up to the task.
The Chargers lost center Mike Pouncey for the season Thursday because of a hip problem that requires surgery. He will have the procedure done this month.
“I think we actually do a good job against each other,” said Hayward, the AFC defensive player of the week. “We have to go out there and limit those guys, because they have some dogs on that offense.”
Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said he enjoys the chess matches against Chiefs coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. They switch up the play calling and are balanced in using both the width and length of the field, Bradley said. They also are aggressive, Bradley said, in looking for deep shots.
Their personnel allow them to attack in different ways. Receiver Tyreek Hill, who can stretch the field with his 4.2-second 40-yard dash speed, complements Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman.
Tight end Travis Kelce, who posted 1,229 yards receiving last season, can use his 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame to create mismatches. And rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against the Houston Texans.
The Chargers need to mix up their coverages, communicate well and create pressure to be successful, Bradley said.
“We’re going to have to execute,” Bradley said. “This is a precision game. Guys have to be on their job, getting off blocks, tackling well and we have to get a lot of hats on the ball.”
With many new players manning the defense, and many of them young, the Rams defended surprisingly well in their opening victory over Dallas, especially considering there were no preseason games.
As the Chargers play their first game in SoFi Stadium without fans, the team launched initiatives to keep their supporters engaged virtually.
The team is bringing the stadium’s video board to fans’ living rooms. By downloading the HomeTurf app, fans can see live effects from the stadium’s Oculus video board on a mobile device, as well as live chats with Chargers legends and a chance to win autographs and prizes through trivia games during the broadcast.
The team also revamped its app, allowing fans to watch live games on a device if they are in the market-viewing area. The app will give fans GIFs, highlights, player stats and live game updates.
Patrick Arthur, vice president of marketing for the Chargers, said he and his staff worked throughout the offseason to think of creative ways to keep fans locked in, and he hopes the array of content will make fans feel as if they’re in the stadium.
“Even though they can’t be there in person, I hope that all of these experiences can bring them together,” Arthur said. “Hopefully, with all of these different things, we can keep that sense of the Chargers community.”
Defensive end Joey Bosa (triceps) and right guard Trai Turner (knee) both came off the Chargers’ injury list Friday and will play against the Chiefs. Running back Justin Jackson (quadriceps) missed practice all week and is doubtful. Coach Anthony Lynn indicated that undrafted rookie Darius Bradwell likely would be promoted from the practice squad to replace Jackson. … The Chargers signed another running back, Troymaine Pope, to their practice squad. He appeared in 14 games last season for the team.
Staff writer Jeff Miller contributed to this report.
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