Tale Of The Tape: Kansas City Chiefs At San Diego Chargers
- QuarterbackWhile Alex Smith did not have his best game in Week 16 against an aggressive Indianapolis defense, he has been largely responsible for the playoff season the Chiefs have enjoyed this year. Smith has a great understanding of the game and is often described as a game manager, but that’s not an accurate description. He is a smart leader and an accurate passer who has turned the Chiefs into a winner.The Chargers need help, but they are still in contention for a playoff spot. In order to get there, they need to win this game while the Ravens and Dolphins lose. Philip Rivers has had an excellent season under center for the Chargers. He has been very accurate and he has avoided forcing the ball into tight spaces. Rivers is completing 69.7 percent of his passes and he has a 29-10 TD-interception ratio.
- OffenseThe Chiefs are locked into their playoff position – the No. 5 seed in the AFC – so head coach Andy Reid is likely to give some of his regulars a rest. That includes running back Jamaal Charles, who has often been the sparkplug when the Kansas City offense has reached high gear. Charles has 1,287 yards and 12 rushing TDs. He also has seven TDs as a receiver.The Chargers don’t have an overpowering running game, but Ryan Mathews (ankle) has been consistent this season and he has taken pressure off of Rivers. Mathews has rushed for 1,111 yards and six touchdowns. Wide receiver Keenan Allen has been a huge find for the Chargers this season, catching 66 passes for 957 yards and eight touchdowns. Antonio Gates is a valuable weapon on third downs.
- DefenseThe Chiefs started the season on a roll largely because of their defense, but that unit has given up a lot of yards and points in the second half of the season. Middle linebacker Derrick Johnson has been solid and he is the team’s leading tackler with 107 stops. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are tied for the team lead in sacks with 11.0.The Chargers rank 24th on defense and they have been vulnerable to giving up long drives at key points in the season. Free safety Eric Weddle has been their most consistent performer and he leads the team with 101 tackles. Inside linebacker Donald Butler has also been solid and is second with 74 tackles. Defensive end Corey Liuget leads the Chargers with 4.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Chiefs have gotten explosive contributions from their special teams throughout the season. Dexter McCluster has two punt returns for touchdowns, while Knile Davis and Quintin Demps have each returned kickoffs for scores. PK Ryan Succop has been decent but not special.The Chargers have done a good job on punt and kickoff coverage, but they are going to have to be at their best to hold the Chiefs in check. Allen and Danny Woodhead are both dangerous returners. Nick Novak has been solid, connecting on 32-of-35 FG attempts this season.
The Chargers are playing for their postseason lives while the game means little to the Chiefs, Still, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid doesn’t want to go into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. Look for the visitors to keep it close. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor