Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs matchups, start time and how to watch
When Chargers have the ball: There were 40 seconds remaining in the first half Sunday when the Chargers took over at their 25-yard line. It was third and 11 at the 41 when they had only 25 seconds with which to work. Eight seconds later they had a touchdown, Justin Herbert throwing 59 yards to Jalen Guyton. “There are plays in our playbook,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said, “that you would not run with most other quarterbacks.” Herbert is the key to everything the Chargers do on offense. He had four touchdown passes in Kansas City in late September when the Chargers won in the final minute 30-24. Repeating that performance now would seem unlikely with the Chargers missing standout rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater (COVID-19 list). The Chiefs also are playing significantly better on defense these days. Kansas City has given up just two touchdowns and 27 points over its last three games. The Chargers have scored at least 37 points in three of their last four games. Running back Austin Ekeler (ankle) has touchdowns in five consecutive games. He’s officially listed as questionable. Head coach Brandon Staley said the Chiefs appear to be more comfortable with their scheme than earlier in the season. He especially credited Kansas City’s front, which will be without tackle Chris Jones (COVID-19 list).
Rashawn Slater’s absence because of COVID-19 protocols isn’t an ideal situation for the Chargers, but Justin Herbert knows worrying about it won’t help.
When Chiefs have the ball: The first time these teams met this season, the Chargers won in large part because they forced four turnovers and didn’t have one giveaway. They intercepted Patrick Mahomes twice and cornerback Tevaughn Campbell forced two fumbles, both recovered by Michael Davis. Mahomes did throw for three touchdowns, but he hardly starred. Where the Chargers struggled was against the run, a sacrifice they made to combat the Chiefs’ big-play potential. They gave up 186 yards in 30 carries. “The main objective coming into the game is making sure we stop the run early,” Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said this week. “If you let that get going, as well as those [passing-game] threats, it can be a long day.” Mahomes’ top weapons are wide receiver Tyreek Hill (1,030 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) and tight end Travis Kelce (74 catches, six touchdowns). Staley called Kansas City “a very dynamic football team” and, speaking of the offense, added, “You have the knockout-punch threat every snap with that group.” The Chiefs have been winning more with defense lately. But on Sunday in a 48-9 win over Las Vegas, Mahomes and the offense scored on seven consecutive possessions.
When they kick: Dustin Hopkins is 12 of 13 on field goals and 19 of 21 on extra points in his seven games with the Chargers. Kansas City’s Harrison Butker is 20 of 23 on field goals and 39 of 41 on extra points. During the Chiefs’ most recent visit to SoFi Stadium — on Sept. 20, 2020 — Butker kicked two 58-yard field goals, including the winner in overtime.
Jeff Miller’s prediction: Minus the teams’ final meeting last season — when playoff-bound Kansas City rested several starters — four of the last five matchups between these two have been decided by one score. That will happen again Thursday.
CHARGERS 23, CHIEFS 21
Go beyond the scoreboard
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