Chiefs’ run game, defense boosts postseason push heading into Week 11

Dec. 28, 2015; Kansas City, MO; General view of the line of scrimmage between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Dec. 28, 2015; Kansas City, MO; General view of the line of scrimmage between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A three-game winning streak has the Chiefs (4-5) entrenched in the postseason chase, a game out of the AFC wildcard spot, entering Week 11’s contest against the San Diego Chargers (2-7).

And don’t judge the Chiefs’ current record when considering 21 teams have qualified for the playoffs with a losing record through nine games since 1990.

While Kansas City is amazingly in the playoffs discussion after starting 1-5, the Chiefs saved the season because the team’s identity arguably formed during the winning streak.

“I think we’re going to play good defense and offensively we do whatever it is to win the game,” wide receiver Jason Avant said. “If that means we have to run the ball and control the clock, we will, and if that means we have to throw it, we will. But we are committed to the run game. We’re a team that’s committed to the run game and play good defense.”

The Chiefs have excelled by combining a punishing run attack with dominating defensive performances in wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos.

When it comes to establishing the ground game, the Chiefs gained 450 yards rushing during the winning streak and currently rank 10th in the league, averaging 117.3 yards rushing per game.

Second-year running back Charcandrick West has paced the attack, totaling 276 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the past three games. West also produced 136 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Chiefs come off a five-sack, five-interception effort against the Broncos, and have clamped down since Week 5.

And the Week 10 performance had Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ attention.

“Obviously, the turnovers is the first thing that steps out,” Rivers said during a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “You see getting all the interceptions, putting their offense in great position in a field position battle.”

The Chiefs defense has become a complete package since surrendering an average of 31.2 points per game the first four games to now allowing 14 points per game in the past five games.

“We know we can give us a good chance to win if we play the way we’re supposed to play,” outside linebacker Justin Houston said.

Kansas City will face teams, including the Chargers, boasting a combined 15-31 record the rest of the way.

But the Chiefs won’t find the going easy against the Chargers, a team that has lost five straight games by a combined 25 points.

Sunday’s matchup features the Chargers’ No. 1 passing offense against a formidable Chiefs defense, and the Chiefs’ 10th ranked running game against the league’s 27th ranked run defense.

The Chiefs are sure to utilize the winning formula of running the football and stout defense against the Chargers.

But to secure a win and keep the postseason within sight requires execution on all levels, not just one or two.

“It’s still a team effort because we can’t win it without the offense and special teams,” Houston said. “We need all three phases, not just defense. I do think defense leads the way, but we can’t do it without the rest of the team.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

OFFENSE

• The Chiefs rank 10th in rushing (117.3 yards per game) and 25th in passing (223.3 yards per game).
• The Chargers rank 30th in rushing (85.3 yards per game) and first in passing (328.6 yards per game).

DEFENSE

• The Chiefs rank eighth against the run (97.1 yards allowed per game) and 15th against the pass (244.3 yards allowed per game).
• The Chargers rank 27th against the run (122.9 yards allowed per game) and 17th against the pass (249.2 yards allowed per game).

THE LAST TIME

The Chiefs swept the series in 2014, defeating the Chargers, 23-20, in Week 7 at Qualcomm Stadium, and then 19-7 in Week 17 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Sunday’s contest marks the 110th time the Chiefs and Chargers will meet. The all-time series is tied at 54-54-1.

CONNENCTIONS

• Chiefs running backs Coach Eric Bieniemy was a second-round pick of the Chargers in the 1991 NFL Draft. He went on to play four seasons in San Diego (1991-94).
• Chargers cornerback cornerback Brandon Flowers was a second-round pick of the Chiefs and played seven seasons in Kansas City (2008-13).
• Chargers tight end Sean McGrath spent the 2013 season with the Chiefs.
• Chargers inside linebacker Joe Mays played for the Chiefs in 2014.
• Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square spent part of the 2014 season with the Chiefs. • Chargers offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris was an assistant offensive line coach with the Chiefs for two seasons (2008-09).
• Chargers quarterbacks Coach Nick Sirianni was with the Chiefs as an offensive quality control coach and wide receivers coach (2009-12).

QUOTABLE

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has eight children (six daughters, two sons):

“He’s got more kids than me now. I mean, he passed me up.”

Chargers tight end Sean McGrath, who played for the Chiefs in 2013, on the understanding from the Chiefs and fan base when he retired on the eve of 2014 training camp:

“I fully appreciated all the support that I had there. It was nothing against Kansas City by any means. It was a personal decision that I felt was right for me at that time.”

Chargers coach Mike McCoy on tight end Sean McGrath’s trademark beard:

“Thick and ready to roll.”

Former Oklahoma defensive lineman David King, whom the Chiefs claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks, on seeing long snapper James Winchester, offensive lineman Donald Stephenson and cornerback Jamell Fleming in the locker room:

I’m surrounded by Sooners.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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