Editor’s note: We welcome Managing Editor Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue — our sister SBNation site covering the Los Angeles Chargers — for Five Questions with the Enemy as we head into the Week 2 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chargers this Sunday.
1) Tyrod Taylor and Philip Rivers are at opposite ends of the QB scale in terms of ball protection. Do you feel the Chargers have gone too ‘safe’ with Taylor?
Personally, I think they’re standing on the very edge of going too safe. The safety of Tyrod Taylor barely won the game against the Bengals — even with the Bolts being +2 in the turnover differential. The defense is not always going to be +2 — or even positive, for that matter — in every single game. At the end of the day, the starting quarterback needs to throw touchdown passes and take some pressure off the defense by keeping drives alive.
If the Chargers can’t score more than one touchdown a game going forward, I’d expect to hear the Herbert! chants sooner rather than later.
2) The Chiefs have had success on the ground vs the Chargers recently. How do you propose the Chargers should stop this or is it worth surrounding the ground to not give up the air?
Chargers fans will point towards the addition of defensive tackle Linval Joseph as a key piece to stopping the run this Sunday. Besides a 23-yard touchdown on a draw play from quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bolts did an excellent job of bottling up Joe Mixon (3.6 YPC) this past weekend — and would have otherwise kept the Bengals below 100 yards rushing as a team.
However, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a different animal. He’ll be able to squeak through holes in the line that no one else can — and that’s going to be a tough draw for the Chargers’ linebackers. I do believe that they’ll attempt to stop the pass first, as it’s still the best way to shorten the game against a high-powered offense.
3) Which player on the Chargers offense could do the most damage to the Chiefs on Sunday?
I think running back Austin Ekeler has the best chance of making a splash against Kansas City’s defense. I know the Chiefs are lacking at cornerback talent, but they make up for it by having an aggressive front seven that plays disciplined football. Their cornerbacks won’t have to sit in coverage all that long before the ball is forced out — or the likes of Chris Jones or Frank Clark get home on Taylor.
I expect a healthy amount of dump-off passes to Ekeler and designed plays to get him into space where he is at his best. Since there’s a good chance the Bolts will be playing from behind in this one, that will also divert more work to Ekeler as the team attempts to keep drives alive.
4) How do the Chargers beat the Chiefs on Sunday?
I think they have to execute the same strategy that they employed against the Bengals — but the offense MUST put more points on the board and be better at extending drives. They failed on multiple fourth downs and left plenty of points on the board — especially one notable moment where they left with three points when they had first-and-goal from the four-yard line.
The defense will have to force Mahomes to do what he rarely ever does: turn the ball over. They also have to keep the foot on the gas when it comes to the pass rush. They got to Burrow three times in the first half this past weekend, but didn’t register another sack throughout the entire second half. That can’t be the case on Sunday.
5) How does the game play out on Sunday?
I really want to be optimistic about this matchup, but I just don’t see it. While the defense may play a pretty good game, the offense will likely struggle mightily against a much better unit than they faced in Cincinnati. I think this won’t be a huge blowout, but it will seem like a bigger win for the Chiefs than the final score shows. My prediction is 24-16 Chiefs.