Chargers Have to Be Disciplined Against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs
It is only the second week of the NFL season. The Chargers defense is going to be tested in a big way when they face the Kansas City Chiefs high powered offense. They are led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, who seems to be a cheat code at the quarterback position.
"He is a beast to deal with," said Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. "He is the leader of that offense and leader of that team, I believe. So anytime you are dealing with Patrick (Mahomes), you are up for challenge, but I feel good about our style and the way we have planned for him in the past. You know if we take care of the football, I'm going to like our chances."
The Chiefs quarterback in one game this season has picked up where he left off, throwing for over 200 yards and three touchdowns. Mahomes is a unique quarterback who can evade pressure with his legs and beat a defense with his arm.
The offense also has a lot of firepower.
"They have weapons everywhere," said Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. "They have the best QB in the league. They have too many weapons over there, but we have weapons too. We know they are big-play hunting, so we have to eliminate those."
Mahomes offense features receiver Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson. All four receivers have Olympic style speed and have the homerun ability at any time, but recently the Bolts defense has neutralized that big playability.
"Tackling you know they are fast and they have exceptional athletes in space you have to keep them in front of you. Then you have to tackle them, so we did a good job of standing back coming up and making the plays that we need to make," explained Lynn.
The offense now features a new weapon in running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The back is very dangerous and is coming off a 160-yard rushing performance in his debut. Chargers rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray has experience preparing for the back because of their Peach Bowl matchup last season. Edwards-Helaire was injured coming into the game, but the Oklahoma Sooners prepared for him as if he would play.
Murray knows what the defense must do to slow down the Chiefs running back.
"It's just gonna be extremely important for us this week to wrap up and be really really good when our tackles on so that we don't allow any extra yardage," said the rookie linebacker.
The defense will be without safety Derwin James and linebacker Drue Tranquill, whom both were going to be counted on when covering Chiefs all-pro tight end Travis Kelce. When James didn't play in Mexico City last season, Kelce caught seven passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. In the game James did play, Kelce only had three catches for 24 yards. James will be missed on Sunday.
Kelce is yet another weapon in Mahomes arsenal. The defense will have to be aware of where number 87 is on the field at all times on Sunday.
"I think one of his greatest assets that he has is that he uses your momentum against you," explained Bradley. "He'll get open, and you'll catch the ball but what he does after he catches the ball, to be able to jerk routes and come back and use your leverage against it and get open and then to tackle him in space is, you know, we were talking about earlier today, Tony Gonzalez is a lot like that, he you know, has the ability to really utilize his speed and, and he's just a really smart football player as well. So crafty vet knows how to get open and then make the yards after the catch, I think, has caught our attention."
The Chargers defense has done a good job on Mahomes in the past. Last season, the defense made him look almost human, keeping him to under 200 yards passing in both games. In both matchups, Mahomes turned the ball over, which is a trend the defense wants to continue.
"We got to do our job as a defense and try to create some takeaways," explained defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. "You know, whether it is in the run game in the pass game. They do a good job looking to get extra yards off the catch, so you know, getting the number of hats to the ball. The takeaways sometimes can come from impact plays, you know, an impact hit, so that is why again we're preaching get a lot of guys to get to the ball."
Bradley spoke to the media on Thursday about how dangerous the offense is with all the weapons Mahomes possesses. He paid a lot of respect to head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for their offense diversity.
"They have play-action, max play-action, they have RPOs they have shots, drop back, I mean, spread out bootlegs," explained Bradley. "So, you know, you don't see a team that has that variety. You might see a team that has one or two in each category, and then they major in, you know, two or three of them, but they do a good job of all of them. So, you're right when it is a quick rhythm RPO type mentality plays; it is important that we try to get some hands on the ball."
One way that the Chargers know they can get Mahomes is by the pass-rushing ability of defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They must disrupt the offensive flow like they did last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals.
They must do it consistently. The defense had three sacks on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow in the first half, but they made adjustments in the second half that slowed down the pass rush.
"It is very critical, but we gotta be able to pass rush for four quarters," said Lynn. "So, I think it's something that comes with getting in game shape I wanna see their pass rush increase. I do. I feel like we have good depth on the defensive line and so we can keep guys fresh, and Giff (Smith) does a heckuva job with the rotation, and I believe we can get after him for four quarters."
It will be a tough matchup for the defensive line because the Chiefs offensive line isn't a pushover. Last season, their offensive line only allowed one sack in both games. The Chargers know they have to do a better job of getting to the quarterback, but with Mitchell Schwartz leading that right side, it will be tough.
"Our guys got a lot of respect for him," explained Bradley. "He understands rushers, you know, he's gone against Joey and Melvin and Chenna (Uchenna Nwosu) and those guys and, and, you know, he can switch mentality based on who he's going with, you know, who's up against some So, you've got a lot of respect for him overall as a player what he does for their scheme."
Bradley explained that he wants his defensive lineman to raise their hands when Mahomes is about to throw the ball to help either knock the ball down or pop it up for a fellow defender to make a play.
The Chargers defense knows what they have to do against the Chiefs high-powered offense. It will be easier said than done, but they know what they must do to try and get a victory on Sunday.
"You got to be hunting and trying to create turnovers the whole game," Hayward said. "You know if you can get it early, great, and let's just keep it rolling. They always say you know, turnovers come in a bunch. So that's trying to get them early and just keep them rolling."