Week 7 Preview: Chiefs @ Chargers

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Dec 29, 2013; San Diego, CA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy (r) talks with Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (l) prior to the 2013 regular season finale at Qualcomm Stadium. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; San Diego, CA; San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy (r) talks with Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (l) prior to the 2013 regular season finale at Qualcomm Stadium. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs (2-3) return from a bye week by traveling to San Diego to face the red-hot Chargers (5-1).

San Diego marks the fourth playoff team from the 2013 playoffs the Chiefs have faced in the last five games.

And Sunday presents another challenge when considering the Chiefs have lost six straight games at Qualcomm Stadium.

Still, Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been largely successful in the game following a bye week, amassing a 13-2 record in such situations in his career. He has, however, lost two straight games returning from a bye after starting 13-0.

Reid’s approach to the downtime, the same one he learned as an assistant coach in Green Bay under then-Packers coach Mike Holmgren, involves giving players a week off and coaches a few days off.

“Sometimes I think it’s good to step away whether you’re doing well or not doing well,” Reid said. “Coming off a win or a loss I think sometimes it’s good to get away and get recharged.”

Quarterback Alex Smith agrees with Reid that the time away was good for both him and the team.

“You never know when you are going to get them,” Smith said. “But hopefully get us healthy as a team, healthier, but yeah, when you do get a few days to get away, you enjoy it with your family and friends.”

While the time away from the game may have been beneficial, the Chiefs must now focus on the Chargers, a team on a five-game winning streak and whose only loss was by one point in Week 1.

“We’ve got plenty of room to improve and that’s what we’re all working to do,” Reid said. “We’re going after getting prepared for San Diego.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

Offense

• The Chiefs rank fourth in rushing (137.6 yards per game) and 29th in passing (197.4 yards per game).
• The Chargers rank 25th in rushing (92.7 yards per game) and sixth in passing (285.5 yards per game).

Defense

• The Chiefs rank 23rd against the run (127.4 yards per game) and seventh against the pass (214.4 yards per game).
• The Chargers rank ninth against the run (99 yards per game) and fourth against the pass (209.3 yards per game).

THE LAST TIME

The Chargers have won the last six games at home against the Chiefs, including a 24-27 win on the final game of the 2013 season that pushed San Diego into the playoffs.

Kansas City’s last win in Qualcomm Stadium came in 2008 when the Chiefs won 30-16 under then-coach Herm Edwards.

Sunday will be the 109th game between the Chargers and the Chiefs. San Diego holds a 55-52-1 edge in the overall series history and has won eight of the last 10 games.

RIVERS PROVIDES BIG CHALLENGE

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has led the team to a 5-1 record and currently leads the NFL in both completion percentage and quarterback rating. In two games against the Chiefs last year, Rivers threw for more than 600 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.

“Right now I think most people would argue that he’s probably playing the position as well as anybody in the league,” said Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. “I think in the last two years, I really feel like this guy has gone from where you thought maybe he’s leveling off to he’s taking off.”

Chiefs inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson, who started against the Chargers in San Diego last season, is looking forward to facing yet another great quarterback this year.

“They kind of have one of the best passing games in the league right now,” Johnson said. “For me personally, I think it’s going to be better for me because I played against them last year, so I’m just looking forward to it.”

FLOWERS FACES THE CHIEFS FOR THE FIRST TIME

Chargers defensive back Brandon Flowers, who began his career with the Chiefs in 2008, has become one of the league’s best defenders this season. In his six-year career in Kansas City, Flowers recorded 17 interceptions and became a fan favorite before being cut after the 2013 season.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith knows that Flowers is a big part of the reason for the Chargers’ defensive success.

“He’s playing good, their whole secondary I think is playing good football,” Smith said. “But certainly he is playing well. They play about every coverage there is, so all of those guys are asked to do different things.”

Whether Flowers actually plays or how effective he’ll be remains to be seen.

Flowers did not practice Wednesday and Thursday with a groin injury. He returned to a limited practice on Friday and is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

CHARLES CLOSE TO RECORD

Running back Jamaal Charles has totaled 6,018 rushing yards in his career, good for second on the team’s all-time list. Charles needs just 53 yards to break Priest Holmes’ record, but his teammates know that he possesses more value than just as a runner.

“That guy is the ultimate hybrid,” said tight end Travis Kelce. “It’s a pleasure having him on the offense. It’s a testament to how much that guy works and how much dedication he has to this team. He really is one of the leaders here that keeps this bus rolling.”

Quarterback Alex Smith appreciates Charles’ work ethic as well.

“He’s an extremely, extremely talented guy that works his tail off,” Smith said. “With those two things, you kind of combine those, good things happen. The guy never comes off the field, never wants to come off the field, does all types of things for us.”

QUOTABLE

Chiefs coach Andy Reid on how Jamaal Charles compares to other running backs he’s coached:

“I’m not going to sit there and compare them, that’s a bad thing to do as a coach, but I’ll tell you, he’s pretty stinking good and I’m very happy to have him.”

Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on the Kansas City Royals clinching a World Series berth:

“I’m not really a huge baseball fan, but if you don’t get into this, you better go see if it’s (your heart) working right, know what I mean?”

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on Jamaal Charles:

“He can do everything on the field whether it’s run, block, pass (receive). We haven’t seen him throw the ball yet but you never know if that will come out at any time soon.”

Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson on the Kansas City Royals clinching a World Series berth:

“When they’re on TV and we get a chance to watch, we’re watching … We were sitting up here as a staff watching the end of that game and kind of put football on hold for a second just to see the end of the game. So we’re excited for them and wish them the best of luck.”

PREDICTION

While the Chiefs have fared well against the pass this season, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers presents a tough test for a secondary that is without nickel cornerback Chris Owens (knee) and strong safety Eric Berry (ankle).

Ron Parker will start a fourth straight game in Berry’s place, and the Chiefs will turn to rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines (concussion, probable) or cornerback Jamell Fleming to fill Owens’ role.

Outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali must get constant pressure on Rivers and can’t allow him to get comfortable in the pocket.

While the pass rush is key, Kansas City’s best weapon against Rivers may be the running game with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, allowing the Chiefs to take the lead in time of possession and wear down the Chargers defense.

Despite coach Andy Reid’s success coming off a bye, the Chargers’ prolific passing game and strong defense proves too much for an inconsistent Chiefs team.

Outcome: Chargers 38, Chiefs 24