Chiefs vs. Chargers matchup: Tyrod Taylor may have to take risks

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor throws during the Chargers' season-opening win.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor throws during the Chargers’ season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 13.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (1-0) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) match up heading into Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

When Chargers have the ball: Two offensive series that featured first-and-goal situations last week ended in field goals for the Chargers. They still managed to defeat Cincinnati, which is not Kansas City. Field goals aren’t going to be enough to topple a Chiefs team that performed only so-so in Week 1 and still scored 34 points and beat Houston by two touchdowns. With the emphasis on reaching the end zone, Tyrod Taylor might have no choice but to take the sorts of risks he generally tries to avoid. Taylor became the Chargers’ starting quarterback this season largely because he doesn’t turn over the ball. Anthony Lynn has reminded his players repeatedly that, in going 1-5 against Kansas City since he became their coach, the Chargers are minus-15 in turnover deferential in the series. Still, being overly conservative is no way to beat an offense that is celebrated for its explosiveness. In Patrick Mahomes’ 37 career starts (including the playoffs), the Chiefs have scored fewer than 23 points once — in a 19-13 Week 5 loss to Indianapolis last season. Taylor passed for 208 yards against the Bengals and connected with Mike Williams and Hunter Henry for big gains. But he targeted only Williams, Henry and Keenan Allen more than twice, and the Chargers will need more variety to keep up this time.

Kansas City’s offense has recognizable names: Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce. Tyreek Hill. Sammy Watkins. Chargers defense must deal with speed, too.

When Chiefs have the ball: Kansas City won the Super Bowl in February behind a fireworks-filled offense that was only average running the ball. Those 2019 Chiefs ranked 16th out of 32 teams in yards rushing during the regular season. In April, Kansas City drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the 32rd pick and this dynamic offense became even, what’s the word, “dynamicker?” Edwards-Helaire ran for 138 yards and a TD in the Chiefs’ opener. Even though Edwards-Helaire so clearly stood out, the Chargers have talked about his ability to blend in and even disappear behind his linemen at 5 feet 7. He gives Mahomes yet another option in the event Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson and ... well, you get the idea of what the Chargers are up against in their SoFi Stadium debut. And, remember, the Chargers will be without safety Derwin James (knee) and linebacker Drue Tranquill (ankle), two playmakers who would have been particularly helpful this week. Look for the Chargers to go heavy on defensive backs. Coordinator Gus Bradley’s groups have been about as successful as any in slowing Kansas City over the last few seasons. That trend must continue for the Chargers to have a chance.

When they kick: Michael Badgley had a solid opener for the Chargers, kicking three field goals and one extra point. He missed a 50-yard attempt in the second half, but the kick had the distance. No player in league history has scored more points in his first three seasons than Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker, who entered 2020 with 426.


Jeff Miller’s prediction: Kansas City won the most recent Super Bowl and might be better now.