Gameplan: Chiefs head to Mexico City for AFC west battle

Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers
Posted at 9:50 AM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-18 10:50:41-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stage is set for a unique AFC West matchup on foreign soil. Kansas City comes into Mexico City needing a win to maintain a close lead over the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers come into the contest with no margin for error in their postseason hopes.

The Chargers will challenge the Chiefs with an offense that saw the removal of their offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt less than three weeks ago. Wisenhunt was replaced by quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen. Steichen is still green in his play-calling, especially in pressure situations.

Los Angeles’ offense runs through Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to succeed. Tight end Hunter Henry can contribute but is finding his footing back after injury.

Defensively, Gus Bradley is still in charge of their scheme that relies on zone coverage and the edge rushes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to set the tempo.

The Chiefs will have plenty of challenges on Monday night but Andy Reid has defeated Phillip Rivers in nine of their past 10 matchups since 2014. Here the keys for Kansas City to get back on the winning track.

1. Run at the edge rushers
The Chargers provide a sound front seven in run defense. They are tough up the middle and their edge rushers are crucial on long down and distance. They lack strength on the edge versus off tackle runs. Kansas City can find success running at Bosa and Ingram to wear them down. The Chiefs will need to create numbers on the edge for seal blocks and double teams but it will prove to be worth the reward in two different aspects on offense.

2. Collapsing the interior
Phillip Rivers struggles with pressure up the middle this season. He does not like being moved off his spot but he will step up in the pocket if there is room to buy time. Rivers doesn’t have any interest in running anymore to buy time. He will give up on the play and take defeat if the pressure gets to him. Rivers also is putting more air under his throws now since he has lost some velocity. If pressure comes up the middle, he puts even more air underneath the throw which has lead to more inaccurate passes this season. Collapsing the A and B gaps stuns their offense and creates turnovers.

3. Shot the gaps
The Chiefs refused to attack the gaps last week in run defense and it cost them a much needed victory in Tennessee. Kansas City is at its best defensively when they are attacking the line of scrimmage and setting the tempo. The Chargers will likely try to space the Chiefs out with their formations to run on their five or six defenders in the box. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have to accept some losses on flats passes and check down routes to stop the run. Kansas City will need to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage to force Rivers to pass.

4. Double on the interior
When the Chiefs elect to run between the tackles they will need to double the defensive tackles to the second level and add more blockers to the edge. The Chargers defensive interior is strong in one-on-one blocks but can be pushed back on double teams.

5. Manipulate the Zones
The Chiefs have been able to do this for multiple years against Bradley’s scheme. Kansas City needs to space out and attack the voids in the Chargers zone coverage. The Chiefs can find plenty of success especially against single high coverage with their combination routes and weakening the pass rush with the run.

6. Hard count
The final key is utilizing the hard count. The Chargers want to rush on the first sound. The Chiefs can get a couple of favorable opportunities if their offensive line will remain focused on the snap count. Patrick Mahomes can also keep the rush on their toes with this adjustment.

Kansas City has a sizable challenge in front of them on Monday night. The team that showed mental toughness, focus and a sustained intensity through four quarters is the one they will need in Mexico City. Otherwise is could be a long drought headed into the bye week.

Nick Jacobs can be found on Twitter: @Jacobs71. Subscribe and download to the 4th and 1 podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.