Chiefs vs. Chargers preview: 4 things to watch in Week 3 – Chiefs Wire

A must-win game for the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3 will be a huge opportunity to extend their run of dominance in the AFC West for the first time this season. Second-year quarterback and 2020 rookie of the year Justin Herbert presents a major challenge for Tyrann Mathieu and the Chiefs’ defense, which has struggled mightily in their first two matchups of 2021.

This scrap between rivals that are so familiar with each other will decide the outlook of the division heading into the middle of their schedules. Los Angeles will be highly motivated to get an early leg up on Kansas City while they can, and are sure to put up a good fight to secure their place ahead of the Chiefs early in the season. Andy Reid needs a bounce back from his team after a tough loss to Baltimore, and the team’s ability to dominate these four aspects of the game could be the difference between 1-2 or 2-1 for Kansas City ahead of Week 4.

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The Chiefs’ total lack of a legitimate run game has hamstrung their offense through two games. A continued lack of a run game could doom them against the Chargers on Sunday. Los Angeles has an elite pass rush that could wreak havoc on quarterback Patrick Mahomes if Kansas City is forced to throw to keep up, and keeping the defense off-balance would go a long way towards improving on facets of their game that ultimately lost them the matchup against the Ravens last week.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire desperately needs a breakout game, and with the Chargers likely to zero in on stopping the Chiefs’ receiving threats, this could be his best opportunity to show what he can do. The depth of runners behind the former first-round pick could come into play as well, with Darrell Williams and Jerick McKinnon seeing more snaps than usual to keep fresh legs churning in the running game and wear out Los Angeles’ stout defenders.


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Perhaps the worst part of Kansas City’s game on either side of the ball is their inability to stop teams in the red zone, which was a point of emphasis in the offseason that the team hoped would be resolved by this juncture. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what has gone wrong that makes them so easy to score on inside the 20, but through eight opportunities to get stops in the two games played at this point, opponents have come away with eight scores against the Chiefs, which is concerning, to say the least.

Their offense has been able to keep pace, but will surely find itself struggling to keep up if the defense’s inability to stop anyone continues. For Kansas City, it all starts with tightening up in the red zone. It may be easy to chalk up the poor performances by pointing toward the new talent assembled on the defense and time needed to adjust to the new philosophies coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has introduced, but solutions are needed now and time has run out for the unit already.

A dominant performance by the defense would see Kansas City trending up on the whole, and could potentially have them back in the driver’s seat for the division if the fixes are permanent.

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Edge threat Joey Bosa can turn any gameplan on its ear with his ability to get after the quarterback, and even with the loss of Melvin Ingram to free agency in the offseason, Los Angeles has a penchant for pass rush in 2021. Kansas City paid Patrick Mahomes too much money to have him running for his life in games like this, and will need to keep their MVP quarterback on his feet for the duration of the game in order to secure their second win of the season.

The retooled Chiefs offensive line will face its toughest task so far against the Chargers, and the game should be a good litmus test for where they are in their development together as they seek to gel before getting to the meat of the schedule. Tackles Lucas Niang and Orlando Brown Jr. are sure to face Bosa from a variety of different looks that could complicate their task of keeping Mahomes clean, and the interior linemen will have to contend with Pro Bowl presence Linval Joseph in pass protection, which could prove difficult.

If they’re able to contain the Chargers’ pass rush it should bode well for their ability to compete at a high level moving forward. It should serve as positive momentum as the group continues learning how to work together. With the highest of expectations after so much investment in the offseason, the offensive line would prove a lot if Mahomes doesn’t get sacked in the game on Sunday.

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One of the major factors in Justin Herbert’s meteoric rise as the Chargers’ starting quarterback has been his ability to avoid making mistakes with the ball in his hands. He is an efficient passer with great instincts and a frame that enables him to throw over the top of defenses to keep momentum in Los Angeles’ favor. But no young quarterback is totally immune to momentary lapses of reason, and Kansas City’s defense could gain a fair deal of confidence if they can stop him consistently in this matchup.

Herbert has a 7-10 record in his career and seems hungrier for his next win every week. While he is still young and has much to learn after a rookie of the year campaign in 2020, he is a legitimate threat on any given week with a cast of talented receivers that can make defending the Chargers a tall task. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Jared Cook all present legitimate threats in the passing game that should give Herbert mismatches in certain situations, and Kansas City would be wise to remain disciplined against Los Angeles’ passing attack.

It is no secret that the Chiefs’ defense desperately needs a bounce-back game, and this opportunity against a proven young quarterback is an excellent chance to get it right and make a statement. The only question is if they have the gumption to ground the Chargers’ electric young quarterback and pull out a clutch performance in front of fans at Arrowhead that are ready to believe in them again.