Keys to the game: Chargers @ Chiefs

Nov. 22, 2015; San Diego; Kansas City Chiefs running back Charcandrick West (35) attempts to score over the pile at the goal line against the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Nov. 22, 2015; San Diego; Kansas City Chiefs running back Charcandrick West (35) attempts to score over the pile at the goal line against the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Here are the offensive, defensive and special teams keys for the Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) in Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers (3-9) starting at noon CT at Arrowhead Stadium.

OFFENSE

The fastest way for the Chiefs to push their winning streak to seven games would be duplicating their performance from three weeks ago against the Chargers in San Diego. In that 33-3 victory, they established an early lead and never trailed, allowing only a 52-yard field goal to reach the scoreboard.

One of the Chiefs scores came from the defense: an interception return for a touchdown by outside linebacker Justin Houston. The other three K.C. touchdowns were running plays, including the 1-yard score by defensive tackle/fullback Dontari Poe.

That was also the game where Charcandrick West went down with a hamstring injury and Spencer Ware jumped in and showed he could carry the ball, too, including a 52-yard run and a pair of 3-yard rushing touchdowns.

The offense kept their game plan balanced with 31 running plays and 28 pass plays. Quarterback Alex Smith completed passes to eight different receivers, hitting 80 percent of his throws and averaging 10 yards per attempt.

It’s all a pretty standard formula for football success: balance the play calling, don’t give the ball away, take advantage of field position and hit a few big plays along the way. If the Chiefs offense can do it again, they’ll have a second victory over San Diego

DEFENSE

If Houston is unable to overcome his knee injury and return to the field for Sunday’s game, it should not hinder the Chiefs defense in handling the San Diego offense. Even if Houston didn’t take an interception back for a TD, the Chiefs still win the first game by 26 points.

The key for Bob Sutton’s group in the first meeting was handling running back Danny Woodhead and tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green; that trio combined for nine touches for 31 total yards. With a wide receiver group that’s been decimated by injury, quarterback Philip Rivers is forced to rely on other parts in the San Diego offense. Woodhead has San Diego’s only rushing touchdowns (2) and Gates and Green are tied for the Chargers lead with four TD catches each.

That trio is where Rivers will look, and that’s where the Chiefs defense must handle the San Diego offense.

That task will fall on safeties Eric Berry, Ron Parker, Tyvon Branch, Daniel Sorensen and Husain Abdullah if he’s able to get cleared to play with his concussion. They must support the run and cover all three in the passing game. They did it three weeks ago; they’ll need to do it again.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Chiefs can only hope that whatever was ailing kicker Cairo Santos and the PAT kicking process has been settled in the week of practice getting ready to play San Diego. The weather and field conditions in Oakland were not ideal last Sunday, but that’s still no excuse for two blown extra-point kicks.

Early weather reports call for a cold, rainy Sunday in Kansas City, so conditions will not be ideal. In just his second NFL season, Santos needs to learn how to kick when conditions are not perfect.

San Diego rookie kicker Josh Lambo will make his NFL cold-weather debut. Although he was born in Michigan and grew up in Chicago and Wisconsin, Lambo has not gone through a cold, wet game in the NFL.

Dustin Colquitt and Mike Scifres of the Chargers are among the upper echelon of NFL punters and can change field position on every kick.

On returns, San Diego has been relying on first-year wide receiver Javontee Herndon but his longest return was 24 yards with a kickoff. The Chiefs are now 16 games into a punt/kick return TD drought. The Chiefs need kick returner Knile Davis to take advantage of every opportunity he gets to take the ball.

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Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.

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