The Chiefs are the one team to have better than respectable rushing totals this season against San Diego. Jamaal Charles had 92 yards and the Chiefs gained 5.4 yards per carry last month against the Chargers. But the Chiefs have been beaten up front by their last two opponents, limiting their ability to run the ball. Worse, they handed the ball to their runners just 11 times against Oakland last week. They had better not give up on the run game so quickly Thursday night.
Though he’s one of the top running backs in the NFL, Charles has not been the focal point of the Chiefs’ game plan. Charles has received 16 or more carries in just four of the Chiefs’ seven games, despite gaining an average of 137 rushing yards in those contests. After Charles ran the ball just five times for four yards in a loss to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday, coach Romeo Crennel was at a loss for words when asked by reporters to explain the lack of touches for his offensive star.
With the season hanging in the balance, I would expect Crennel to encourage coordinator Brian Daboll to feed Charles early and often in an attempt to spark a unit that has struggled. If Charles can provide steady production early, the Chiefs will be able to open up the offense with their play-action passing game and generate points against a Chargers defense keyed on stopping the run.
Equally as startling is this: Kansas City is the first team since at least 1940 that has gone through its first seven games without holding a lead in regulation, according to STATS LLC. The Chiefs’ only victory came when Ryan Succop kicked the winning field goal against the Saints in overtime.
“We definitely think about it,” wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. “We definitely do want to see how things turn out if we do get a lead, and maybe we’ll swing this program around if we get ahead. We won’t be having to dig ourselves out of a hole.
“In this game you’re going to face adversity,” he added. “But at the end of the day, you just have to go out there and play football. If you worry about being embarrassed, you’re not going to get any better.”
For the first time in six years, the Chiefs will be competing on Thursday night. The last time the Chiefs battled in a Thursday night game was in November 2006, Kansas City defeated the Denver Broncos 19-10.
The series between the Chiefs and the Chargers has been suspenseful to say the least. Throughout history, there have been 12 contests decided by only one point, the highest total of any series since 1960. The two have competed in six different arenas, resulting in an amazing split series at 52-52.
If the Chiefs want to gain advantage of the series, want to stop their slide, want to overcome their misfortunes then Thursday night will be their chance to do so under the bright lights of a national audience.