Column: It Looks Like Chiefs Have Caught Chargers

From Arrowhead Stadium

I ran these numbers on Monday morning, but after the Chiefs 23-20 overtime victory against San Diego, it’s worth updating them.

Since Clark Hunt blew up his franchise’s operation after the 2008 season and brought in new faces to run every department in the building, the Chiefs and Chargers have played each other six times. Here’s how the Chiefs stood each season after those annual meetings with the guys from southern California:

  • 2009 – Minus- 59 points in going 0-2.
  • 2010 – Minus-24 points in going 1-1.
  • 2011 – Even in points in going 1-1.

Have the Chiefs caught the best team in the AFC West? Are the Chiefs the best team in the AFC West? These are questions that can be legitimately asked after the events of Monday night left both teams tied for first place in the division with the Oakland Raiders.

Any NFL coach will tell you that the prime real estate they want their team to control is first place in their division. With only two wildcard spots available each year in the AFC playoffs, it’s so much easier to win your division to get in the tournament than throwing your lot in with the second chance wildcard pool.

That’s why the teams on top of the eight divisions work very hard to stay there, and the teams below them have drawn bull’s eyes on the leaders’ butts trying to knock them off.

The Chargers have been the team in the AFC West spotlight for a long time now. They’ve won five of the last seven division titles and entering Monday night’s game, they were leading the West yet again. The only team that was able to top them recently was last year’s Chiefs team, a club that used a weak schedule and a lucky streak of no major injuries to slip a game ahead of the Bolts.

So it’s Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Shaun Phillips, Eric Weddle, Quentin Jammer et. al., that the Chiefs have been chasing. The numbers indicate they’ve caught them.

“They have been the team in the division for a long time,” said LB Derrick Johnson, who had another outstanding performance, maybe his best of the season to date. “Anybody that wants to take their place is going to have to beat them. We did that last year, and I think we made a statement this time as well.

“We aren’t going away.”

It would be a stretch even now after two games in five weeks decided by three points each time to say the Chiefs have caught the Chargers. Monday night, it was more like the Chargers stepping down towards the Chiefs. The Bolts were without LG Kris Dielman (concussion), their best pass rusher in OLB Phillips (foot) and all-purpose running back Michael Tolbert (hamstring). During the second half, they lost Jammer and RB Ryan Mathews to injuries.

Yes, I know the Chiefs had three key bodies missing as well. But the advantage for the Chiefs was those guys have been gone awhile now, and the team has learned how to play without them. The Chargers had all three of those players just last week, and there was no way to adjust that quickly to their absence.

On offense, the Chargers have a lot more speed than the Chiefs. That could be seen every time Mathews would run around outside containment and pick up a handful of yards. That could be seen on most of the five catches made by WR Malcom Floyd as he ran away from Chiefs defenders. Even a permanently gimpy Gates has a 40-yard dash time that would top any tight end on the Chiefs roster.

But winning isn’t always about the fastest, the strongest or the quickest. Winning ultimately comes down to who believes it can and will win. Every team, every player wants to win on Sunday or Monday night. But does every player and team unit believe it possible?

If there’s one thing they’ve been taught by Todd Haley and his coaching staff it’s that there is no surrender. Even when the situation looked the bleakest. For instance, when an opponent has the ball at your 15-yard line with just over a minute to play and only needs what would have been a 33-yard field goal to win.

What the Chiefs have done is they’ve caught the Chargers in mentality, the type of mentality it takes to rule a division.

“If we were going to give up around here, it would have happened when we were 0-3 and everybody had us as the worst team in the league,” said DE Glenn Dorsey. “And maybe we were the worst then. But we knew that wasn’t us. We knew what we were capable of doing on the field and that’s what we’ve done since then. We’ve just gone out and played it one game at a time.”

So cliché, so true. The king of one play at a time former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer was in the stadium for Alumni Day and his mantra was as true Monday night as it was 20 years ago.

Talent wise, the Chiefs haven’t caught the Chargers; they are still working on that. But they’ve let us know, and the Chargers know that they are a serious contender for the division yet again. It’s going to be an interesting final nine games.

4 Responses to “Column: It Looks Like Chiefs Have Caught Chargers”

  • November 1, 2011  - OT Victory Gives Chiefs A First Place Share : says:

    [...] COLUMN: Have the Chiefs caught the Chargers? [...]

  • November 1, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Haley’s comets are a resilient bunch that won’t give up and that’s as refreshing as it is frustrating at times.

  • November 1, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Chiefs have to get more pressure on the QB. Even Eric Berry can’t cover guys for 5-7 seconds.

  • November 1, 2011  - ED J says:

    No doubt since Marty left Chargers have gotten worse and Chiefs have gotten better each yr since Haley arrival. I disagree again with Bob about this big gap in talent. You did break down ystrdy in terms of talent it was basically a split. Thats your words in your post i agree for the most part. My point is I dont know by you keep saying we dont have enough talent is it because you dont want to give Pioli any credit for the guys he has brought in. Whats the deal

Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Other News