With the Kansas City facing the possibility of playing on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers without QB Matt Cassel, the running game moves into focus as arguably the most important part of this game for the Chiefs. Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles and even Dexter McCluster will probably be expected to pick up their normal load plus some against the Chargers.
The last time they met, the Chiefs put up 135 yards rushing. That was 11 carries for 92 yards from Charles and 11 carries for 39 yards from Jones. Charles isn't completely stopped very often so we can probably expect him to be effective against San Diego. That meeting was in Week 1 -- or forever ago.
So how well have the Chargers been doing stopping the run this year?
For the most part the Chargers run defense is very solid. Their three worst run defense performances: Week 1 against the Chiefs (135 yards), Week 9 against the Texans (140 yards) and Week 13 against the Raiders (251 yards). They are the fifth ranked run defense. Other than the Raiders game last week, they haven't had any meltdowns.
So when they stop the run, do they win?
Just like the Chargers, it's inconsistent. They'll give up 51 yards rushing and lose. Then turn around and give up 65 yards rushing and win. But five times the Chargers have given up over 100 rushing yards -- four of those they've lost.
We'll see how the Chargers respond when KC potentially becomes more one-dimensional than they've been in the past. The Chiefs can win when the quarterback doesn't play well -- they usually can't win when the running game doesn't.
Reasons for optimism? Last week the Raiders didn't even reach 150 yards passing and still won the game. That means the Chargers knew what was coming and they just couldn't stop it. The Chiefs are one of the few teams that can compare to the Raiders run game (stats say they're better).
We'll see if the Chiefs can match Oakland's effort but I'm guessing this is the No. 1 key to the game.