By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – By the time Sunday afternoon arrives, it’ll have been
two weeks since the Kansas City Chiefs stepped onto a competitive football
And when that time is indeed upon him it’ll be the latest litmus test for the
bye-week practices of Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Kansas City entered the bye on a downer, dropping a 22-17 decision at San
Francisco in which it was held scoreless for the game’s final 26 minutes. It
had begun the trip to the West Coast while still riding a scoreboard high
gained from posting 34 points at Miami and 41 against visiting New England.
Following the blueprint he established while coaching the Philadelphia Eagles,
Reid gave his players nearly a full week off. His teams won post-bye games in
his first 13 seasons with the Eagles, but lost in that situation in his final
year in Philadelphia in 2012 and again in his debut with the Chiefs in 2013.
“I’ve done it this way for a long time and it’s been fairly successful,” he
said. “Sometimes I think it’s good to step away whether you’re doing well or
not doing well. Coming off a win or a loss I think sometimes it’s good to get
away and get recharged.”
A potential beneficiary of the approach is safety Eric Berry, who’s not played
since he sprained his right ankle against Denver in Week 2. Berry is listed as
questionable this week, but the team could certainly use him to augment a
secondary that’s seen cornerback Ron Parker moved to safety to fill in.
Nickel back Chris Owens is also questionable with a knee injury.
A player who recently crossed from the Chiefs to the Chargers – cornerback
Brandon Flowers – is also dinged-up with a groin problem and is listed as
questionable. Needless to say, though, Flowers would like to compete against
the team that released him in June after he appeared in the Pro Bowl.
“I definitely want to play,” he said. “You’d best believe that if there’s any
chance I can play, I’ll be out there.”
Among the healthy, Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles enters the weekend
just 53 yards shy of passing Priest Holmes (6,070) for the franchise’s all-
time rushing lead. Charles gained just 167 yards in his initial three meetings
with the Chargers, but broke loose for 115 yards and two scores in last
season’s Week 12 shootout that was won by San Diego, 41-38.
That victory began a 5-1 stretch to end the 2013 season for the Chargers, and
Philip Rivers and Co. have picked up where they left off – winning five of
their first six games to begin 2014.
In fact, the five wins have come consecutively since a one-point loss to
Arizona in the season opener. It’s their first five-game streak since 2009 and
equals their longest since the AFL-NFL merger.
Rivers posted a 123.8 passer rating while engineering a come-from-behind with
at Oakland last week, making himself the first QB in league history to amass a
rating of 120 or better in five straight games.
He’s thrown three touchdown passes in three straight games and surpassed 300
yards twice this season, though San Diego didn’t clinch the win over the
winless Raiders until a late defensive takeaway.
The Chargers scored 17 points in the final 18 minutes, while Rivers completed
11 of his last 14 passes.
“There are different stats that somebody has kept for a long time, and they
are meaningful, knowing you were tied with Unitas and Warner,” said Rivers,
who has a 119.8 rating in his last four against the Chiefs, all wins. “What it
says is that we’ve had a great five-game stretch. It doesn’t say any more than
that, but I think it speaks to the guys catching the football, the guys
protecting and the whole group.”
Undrafted rookie running back Branden Oliver continued his breakout with 101
yards against the Raiders – including 29 on a final scoring drive that ended
with his 1-yard TD plunge – lifting him to 215 yards over his last two games.
“I’m the type of guy that, if you keep giving me the ball, I feel like I get
stronger as the game goes,” Oliver said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In order to stop – or at least slow down – the prodigious run of success that
Rivers has been on, the Chiefs will need to pressure him and disrupt his
Kansas City has been somewhat successful doing that to other foes thus far in
2014 while recording 15 sacks – seventh-best in the league. Justin Houston has
six of those 15, good for third in the league as an individual.
Sweet Home, San Diego
Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith is a San Diego native, and he’ll need to
muster up some hometown mojo to keep his team level if the matchup again veers
toward a shootout. He’s completed better than 60 percent of his passes and has
twice as many TD throws as interceptions, but it still won’t be an easy task
while facing a defense that’s fourth against the pass, ninth against the run
and second in scoring.
The Chiefs were 11-5 last season, but still played just well enough to lose
twice to a 9-7 Chargers team, both by three-point decisions.
San Diego seems to have taken a quantum leap toward to the top of the NFL in
2014, and it’s difficult to imagine Rivers’ success streak suddenly grinding
to a halt against a foe he’s beaten in four consecutive meetings. If the
Chargers are mistake-free, they’ll soon be 6-1.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chargers 24, Chiefs 20