The staff at BoltBlitz.com gives their picks and analysis of Sunday’s game.
Zak Darman: KC is without Justin Houston and Jamaal Charles, arguably the two best players on the KC roster. Tamba Hali is banged up and Alex Smith is still Alex Smith. BUT, Mike McCoy and John Pagano are still here. The Bolts are without their 3rd overall pick and we still don’t know if they can stop the run yet. The defense should be better and the offense should be immensely better with the additions of Travis Benjamin and Offensive Coordinator Ken Wisenhunt. My fear is the Chargers start out sloppy and slow, as we normally see, and dig themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. It will be closer than many think, but the Chiefs are still deeper than the Chargers and have better talent at most of the skill positions. 24-20 Chiefs
Travis Blake: Contrary to popular opinion, this game is not a low scoring defensive battle many pundits were predicting. Chargers get down early 7-0 but rally back midway through the second quarter and never trail again. Melvin Gordon runs for 99 yards and his first regular season rushing touchdown on a draw play from just outside the red zone. A comeback hopeful drive late in the 4th quarter stalls for the Chiefs as Melvin Ingram gets the strip sack to end the game! Boom! #boltpredictions. Bolts 31, Chiefs 27.
Corey Decker: The Chargers are going into one of the loudest stadiums in the entire national football league. Which means they will be primed and ready to upset the home team. Almost every touchdown in the first three preseason games was scored by the first string, which is a very good sign that the Chargers will score at least one touchdown in the first quarter. The bolts will trail 14-7 going into half time, but will score one touchdown in each of the 3rd and 4th quarters. The Chiefs will kick a field goal with less than a minute remaining and then fail on an onside kick attempt. This game will be close like most division games are. There are a lot of guys that didn’t see much action last season playing which means they are hungry. Chargers 21-17
Cheryl White: Melvin Gordon scores his and the teams first touchdown; the team will be itching to get some work in. KC’s defense will be off kilter a bit w/o Houston and Matt Slauson will show the O-line how to play with NFC North nastiness. Add in touchdowns by Gates and Slayer with good field position for a change courtesy of Benjamin or whomever runs it back. 24-21 Bolts
Chris Hoke: Chargers overcome slouchy first half and squeeze past the Chiefs led by a stingy second half defense and the arm of Rivers. Josh Lambo hits a field goal in OT as the Chargers leave KC victorious. 24-21 bolts
Mike Pisciotta Kansas City’s front 7, even with the absence of Justin Houston will stuff Melvin Gordon and force the offense to become one dimensional. With Joey Bosa out, the Chief’s offense will take advantage with Jamaal Charles and Charcandric West and run all over the Chargers defense. KC 24-17 winners
Will McCafferty: If a healthy Bolt squad can’t beat a banged up KC team, they are in real trouble. 27-24 Bolts
Greg Williams: D will stuff what is left of Chiefs running game. No Justin Houston means they can double Hali without consequence. Chargers will lead wire to wire and game manager Smith will throw two picks trying to play catch-up. Rivers lights up Chiefs secondary for 325 yards and 4 touchdowns. (Two to Gates, who roasts Eric Berry on the regular). 31-13 bolts win
Dave “Booga” Peters: Gordon does just enough, totaling 111 total yards and two touchdowns. Defense forces three turnovers. Joey Bosa was missed in generating pressure, but the front-seven pressures KC enough to allow the secondary to snag two Alex Smith interceptions. Bolts allow QB Smith to rush for 50 yards while Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West chew up 160 yards on the ground, but that isn’t enough for KC. Chargers win 23-20
Usually when journalists such as myself look forward to a brand new season of football, we look at things like QBR, preseason numbers and even the previous season’s statistics. This analysis will different than usual. Why? That is because football is so much more than just a number’s game; it is a game that is not played by players who have their data set and can be predictable.
Football is a game played by humans, and that in and of itself can directly affect play on the field. Using the skills I have learned while studying human communication while minoring in Sports Management at Grand Canyon University, (Go Lopes!) I will look team-by-team and present my analysis here.
San Diego Chargers: The big controversy around this team is whether Joey Bosa will sign or not. Several current and former Chargers players have already voiced their disgust for this situation. If Bosa does end up signing with San Diego and not “pulling an Eli Manning,” that will cause rifts that will directly affect team chemistry on the defensive side of the ball.
As we all saw from the Denver Broncos last season, defensive chemistry is a must for a championship season. Also coming off of a season with as many injuries that the Chargers had last season, it will take a little bit of time for Philip Rivers to get acquainted or reacquainted with his wide receiving corps. If a quarterback does not trust his receivers, he is unable to make the split-second decisions that are needed to win football games.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense is facing the issue of a lack of leadership due to the uncertainty of the situation of their longtime defensive captain, Eric Berry. Captain is more than just a fancy title and a stitching on their jersey; it is a position that is handed to those that rise above and are chosen by their teammates to lead them not only on the field, but off the field as well. On the offensive side of the ball, Alex Smith must get comfortable throwing more than ten yards on any given play. As soon as teams start jumping routes, the Chiefs will not be able to return to being over .500.
Oakland Raiders: The issue with the Oakland Raiders is the fact that they may not have a home next season. It is a situation similar to the Chargers, however, at least last season Chargers’ fans knew that it would be at most a 2-hour drive north. With the Raiders, it will either be a 6-hour drive to Los Angeles or a 10-hour drive to Las Vegas. There are not many fans that can put their faith in a team that may leave them.
Fan presence is a huge factor when the game is on the line, when the opposing offense is on the field, driving towards a score. The only thing that can disrupt that momentum is a lot of crowd noise to get inside the opposing QB’s head, such as when another team plays in either Seattle, Arizona or Kansas City.
Denver Broncos: The issue with the Broncos this season will be at the QB position. Something a lot of fans may not realize is that the QB is the leader. When you have no idea who the outstanding leader is, the offense will have nothing but miscues, accompanied by little to no sense of direction. Also, they are dealing with choosing from a few youngsters and a QB who has garnered little respect in the NFL, Mr. Butt-fumble himself, Mark Sanchez.
After suffering an embarrassing loss last week at home to Denver, the San Diego Chargers will have the daunting task of defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are red-hot, riding a six-game winning streak and pushing for a playoff spot. San Diego is playing for pride in their last four games as their season has been derailed by a litany of injuries to key players on offense and defense.
Kansas City was also expected to fall into the AFC West cellar after losing their perennial Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles for the season eight weeks ago. Instead, they rallied around each other and have recovered from a 1-5 record to put themselves in playoff contention. Keying their turnaround has been an improved defense led by bookend defensive ends Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Add in an emotional boost from safety Eric Berry (after missing a year and successfully beating Cancer) and you have a defense that has forced multiple turnovers a team record seven weeks in a row.
San Diego has a tall mountain to climb but we all know the old adage about any given Sunday. Last week, the lowly Philadelphia Eagles beat the almighty New England Patriots. Anything can and will happen on an NFL Sunday. The Bolts stand the same punchers chance of winning that the Eagles did. How could if happen?
When the Chiefs have the ball
Kansas City handed the Chargers their worst home loss of the season, 33-3 in week 11. Unknown running back Spencer Ware lit up the Chargers defense for 96 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 52-yard run. Running backs Ware and Charcandrick West will look to ground out a victory as they have been doing during their current winning streak.
The passing game has also found life in Kansas City, led by offseason acquisition Jeremy Maclin. Maclin leads the receiving corps with 66 catches for 817 yards and five touchdowns. A close second is tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce has 56 catches for 731 yards and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Alex Smith is known as a game manager but a better adjective would be consistent. Smith doesn’t have gaudy numbers but he also does not turn the ball over. To date, Smith is 246-376 for 2843 yards, 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Smith is also dangerous with his legs. While is isn’t a speed demon, he is third on the team in rushing with 60 carries for 326 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he has run for 19 first downs on the season.
San Diego will have to find a way to generate a pass rush which has been easier said than done this season. For as great as their defensive line has been, the same can’t be said for their offensive line. KC’s offensive line has given up 38 sacks. The Chargers are not averaging two sacks a game as they have 22 sacks on the season. Liuget was third on the team with three sacks. Melvin Ingram (5 sacks) and Jeremiah Attaochu (4.5 sacks) lead the team rushing the passer and will be leaned on to continue to do so. The defense will also have to do a better job bottling the KC ground attack. In the last game the Chiefs had three ground touchdowns and one pick-6 by Justin Houston.
When the Chargers have the ball
Quarterback Philip Rivers is losing targets seemingly every week. Three wide receivers are gone with Keenan Allen, Dontrelle Inman and Stevie Johnson out. Malcolm Floyd is playing through a shoulder injury. During the week, the Chargers enlisted the services of former Charger wideout Vincent Brown. Brown will start in a thin receiving lineup currently consisting of Floyd, Javontee Herndon and Tyrell Williams. The load of a team and a city has rested heavily on the shoulders of Rivers. Somehow, Rivers is third in the league in passing with 3713 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Rivers is also playing through a foot injury and illness he contracted during the past week.
Tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are the most consistent options Rivers has at this point. The two have combined for 70 receptions for 784 yards and eight touchdowns. Using the underutilized option of playing the two together would open running lanes for Gordon and Danny Woodhead and allow the Chargers to move the ball down the field. In their first encounter, Rivers only managed to 178 yards on 30 attempts without a touchdown.
Rivers has had no help in the running game. Melvin Gordon has not been able to get going and carries the ignominious label of running back with the most carries without a touchdown. Gordon has 565 yards on 155 carries. The Chargers offensive line has had more combinations than an Rubik’s Cube and Rivers has paid for it. The line has given up 30 sacks.
Chargers O-line vs. Kansas City pass rush. Rivers was harassed throughout the first encounter by the stout Kansas City defensive front. Rivers was sacked three times, and gave up the pick six to Houston. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe generates significant pass rush up the middle. If the Bolts offensive line can keep those three in check, Rivers will have time do dissect the Chiefs’ formidable secondary led by Berry and rookie of the year candidate CB Marcus Peters. Peters has 50 tackles, 18 passes defensed, five interceptions, one forced fumble and one touchdown on the season.
This game does not look like winnable on the surface. San Diego has lost seven of their last eight games. Three of their last four games are against the AFC West where they are 0-3 to date. Will the Chiefs be looking past the Chargers? Having Rivers under center always gives the Bolts a chance to win. The Chargers know what to expect now that they have game tape on West and Ware. Rivers had his worst game of the season against the Chiefs. Look for the QB to bounce back and put yardage and touchdowns against the Chiefs. While I won’t go so far as to say the Bolts will win, they will give Kansas City a better battle than the 33-3 beatdown the Chargers suffered at home three weeks ago.
The Greg One
A few weeks ago newly appointed Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich announced a more attacking offensive philosophy. Big deal. All offensive coordinators say that. What he said next IS a big deal, and it has been a statement which seems to have been ignored by the rest of the league. The Chargers are going to run a no-huddle offense similar to the one Peyton Manning ran in Indianapolis during his rise to quarterbacking Godhood.
THIS. IS. HUGE.
We already know Rivers is a top-ten quarterback in the NFL, his laundry list of accolades and NFL records prove that point. What this means is Rivers will have on-the-field playcalling control. The Chargers thrived in a short pass, timing, ball-control offense that put the Chargers fifth in the league in yards per game (393) and first in time of possession (33:35). San Diego will be leaving the conventional style offense for one that is more explosive.
Who better to install this offense than Frank Reich? No one. Reich was Manning’s quarterback coach in Indianapolis. He knows the intricacies of that offense. During Peyton’s time in Indianapolis, he only missed the playoffs twice, in 1998 and 2001. The Colts averaged 11 wins a season and were at or near the top of the league in total offense annually. Reich was an assistant coach on the Colts from 2008-11. While Frank was Manning’s quarterback coach, horseface won the league MVP award in back-to-back years, 2008 and 2009. The Colts also landed in the Super Bowl in 2009, although they would lose to former Charger signal caller Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
During his playing days, Reich served as the backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills. He played in the famed K-Gun offense that would send the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. Although his starts were sporadic, when he came in the game he proved to be very capable. There’s no better evidence of this point than the 35-point second half comeback he engineered against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 playoffs. That win was key in getting the Bills to Super Bowl XXVII. That comeback is still the largest comeback in NFL history to this day.
Frank Reich knows offense. Giving the keys to these prolific offenses in a no-huddle format to Rivers will produce similar results. Manning was able to use the quick tempo to exploit matchups and take advantage of a defense that tired chasing fleet-of-foot backs and receivers for four quarters. Kelly and Manning were able to manipulate the defense by adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage without the defense being able to substitute.
Why doesn’t every team do this? Honestly, every team can’t. Only the most cerebral of quarterbacks have the ability and the personnel to be able to orchestrate such an offense. These quarterbacks have to know every single page of the playbook backwards and forwards. They have to be mentally quick enough to see and react to the defensive formations multiple times pre-snap and adjust to an advantageous play. They have to be able to process the accelerated pace for an entire game for an entire season.
We all know Philip Rivers has those qualities. With the added freedom of making his own calls, he will be even better than we’ve already seen. I have observed quite a few games last season where Rivers spotted the weak link on the defense and exploited it over and over.
In the preseason game against Arizona, he found a cornerback matchup he liked, and kept attacking that player until the Cardinals took him out of the game. Against the Chiefs, he exploited safety Eric Berry trying to cover Antonio Gates one-on-one and kept hitting Gates for completions until the Chiefs decided to take Berry off of Gates and double cover him for the rest of the game. In the playoffs against Denver, once Bronco cornerback Chris Harris was injured, Quentin Jammer took over the duty of covering Keenan Allen. Rivers attacked Bailey him away and Allen had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after being nearly invisible for the first three quarters.
It doesn’t matter if they’re Pro Bowl players like Bailey and Berry, or a rookie corner, once Rivers sees a weakness he will attack it until the other team adjusts. With the defense being unable to substitute without sacrificing timeouts, Philip will find more flaws in the defense and the offense will look like the juggernaut we saw on the ’90’s era Bills and 2000-10 era Colts teams that dominated the AFC. Both teams were annual playoff entrants and made multiple Super Bowls. That makes me, and it should make all the Charger faithful, extremely happy.
This offense will be great for Rivers and the Chargers, and terrible for the rest of the league. Fans should not be bothered by the loss of former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to the Tennessee Titans. Rivers has been on record, via multiple media outlets, stating that he loves the fact that Reich is a former NFL quarterback and he brings an insight to the gameplan that only a former QB can. It appears as though the offense is moving full speed ahead and will continue to run a fast-paced playbook that will constantly keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Look out for the 2014 San Diego Chargers. Don’t be surprised if they play in Glendale twice this year. Is it our year? Leave me your thoughts below.
The Greg One