Since the Chiefs played the Chargers recently, there’s not been much change in the personnel and playcalling by Los Angeles. They’ve still got dangerous weapons and a questionable offensive line, as well as a quarterback that makes questionable decisions under pressure.
Let’s dig into the Chargers personnel — and a concept we may see on Sunday afternoon. Then we’ll discuss how the Chiefs defense can try to slow them down and close out the regular season on a hot streak.
The Chargers personnel is the same as the last game that these two teams met. One change is right tackle Sam Tevi returning to health. Trent Scott, Sam Tevi, and Trey Pipkins still get looks at the two tackle positions without Russell Okung likely missing yet another contest.
The offensive concept: Delayed sail concept with double flat
LAC has dynamic pass catchers and it allows them to run longer-developing route combinations.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) December 26, 2019
3x1, Sail concept to field with a backside crosser. TE aligned as H-back releases through the A gap to backside flat. RB follows through to opposite flat. LB's on Ekeler/Henry in covg. pic.twitter.com/MzdYmdWn18
There is no shortage of weapons at the Chargers disposal, as the Chiefs are well aware. The last time these two teams met, Philip Rivers threw for 324 yards through the air to Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams.
These dynamic weapons allow the Chargers to have longer developing route concepts and delayed releases from their receivers, much like the play shown above. The sail concept out of trips is certainly something that defenses see on a regular basis, but the release back inside by Henry and the follow by Ekeler are new.
Defenses reading route stems in match zones have to take an extra moment to determine the releases into the flat by Henry and Ekeler. The interior release also puts these two dynamic receiving threats against hook defenders — not typically the defense’s best coverage players.
It’s difficult enough to defend these players as it is, but the Chargers do well to put the opposition in bad spots and bad matchups. Los Angeles did well to force these matchups in Week 11 against the Chiefs, but Steve Spagnuolo’s pressure was able to force mistakes and take these situations off the table.
The bottom line
The Chargers offense has the potential to be dangerous. Even though the Chiefs defense has played well as of late, the weapons that Los Angeles has at its disposal is a little bit of a nightmare for Steve Spagnuolo.
In Week 11, Spagnuolo utilized a zone heavy coverage scheme and relied more on his four-man rush to get the job done. Forcing Rivers to throw into a forest of defenders and allowing Frank Clark to destroy poor offensive tackles was ultimately enough to keep points off of the board.
I would expect a similar game plan this week. The Chiefs are a healthier bunch up front — neither Alex Okafor nor Emmanuel Ogbah played in the Week 11 matchup — and added a smart, powerful player opposite Clark. This should allow Chris Jones to play more on the interior, as opposed to the last matchup that only had Clark and Tanoh Kpassagnon as its true defensive end rotation.
This game will also not be played at altitude on a messy field, allowing the Chiefs defenders to stay fresher and surer footed in both coverage and rushing the passer. Spagnuolo should be able to send waves and waves of rushers at Rivers in Sunday’s game, knowing he’s got fresher legs and more bodies to run behind them.
Man coverage against Allen, Williams, Henry, and Ekeler is a recipe for disaster if utilized heavily. I would expect lots of two-high looks from the Chiefs in coverage, allowing Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland to attack the flats more vigorously when Rivers is under pressure. Tyrann Mathieu could once again be in for a big game against Rivers, and I expect Spagnuolo to spin him all over the field to help him jump a route for one of the gifts that the quarterback should provide the Chiefs secondary.
The Chiefs are a healthier unit that is playing better football than the last time these two teams met. While the Chargers definitely pose a threat not to be taken lightly, I expect the Chiefs to get pressure and force mistakes Sunday, ultimately closing out a fantastic end of the season run.