Chargers take on the Bears Sunday after their loss to the Chiefs
October 19, 2023
In a pattern that has become very familiar to Los Angeles Charger fans, the Kansas City Chiefs and their potent passing attack once again proved to be too much for the Chargers, as the Chiefs knocked off the Chargers, 31-17 in Kansas City on Sunday. The win for the Chiefs improved their record to 6-1 in the AFC West, giving them a 3-game lead over the second place Las Vegas Raiders. The Chargers are now 2-4.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was 20-of-23 for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against the Chargers. The Chargers were in a zone defense for most of the first half, but in the words of the legendary late Laker broadcaster, Chick Hearn, it was more like a "matador defense." Receivers were running through the Chargers secondary untouched in the first half. It could have been much worse. Mahomes had a 48-yard touchdown pass nullified due to a penalty.
For the game, Mahomes completed 32 of 42 passes for 424 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception. He added 29 yards rushing, which resulted in two key first down conversions. Tight end Travis Kelce had 12 receptions for 179 yards and one touchdown. The Chargers have not been able to find an answer for Kelce on defense.
In a 2021 game against the Chargers, Kelce caught 10 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, including a game winning 34-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes in overtime to beat the Chargers. In a 2022 game against the Chargers, Kelce caught 6 passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes with 31 seconds remaining to win the game, 30-27.
The Chargers pass defense is ranked last in the NFL in passing yardage allowed per game at 310 yards per game and they are 31st out of 32 teams in total defensive yardage allowed per game 406.8 yards per game.
The offense has struggled over the past three games, starting with the passing game. Quarterback Justin Herbert has a passing rating of 75.3% over the past three games, which ranks 28th over the past three weeks, ahead of just the Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, and Cleveland Browns. Herbert over the past three weeks has completed 52 of 91 passes for 653 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Herbert has completed 57% of his passes in the past three weeks. His career average is 67%.
There are multiple reasons the passing game is struggling over the past three games. Herbert has not looked sharp. One issue is a broken finger on Herbert's non-throwing hand. Another is the loss of wide receiver Mike Williams. All-pro center Corey Linsley is on the reserve/non-football illness list with a non-emergent heart related issue. His presence is missed. The offensive line has struggled, particularly at right tackle with Trey Pickens and right guard with Zion Johnson. The tight end group has not performed well.
For the Chargers, this is the sixth time in the last nine seasons that they have started 2-4. In five of those seasons, they did not make the playoffs. For head coach Brandon Staley, this is worst start in his three years as the Chargers head coach, which he spoke about in his Monday press conference.
"We lost two tough ones to two good teams," Staley said. "I think that after you lose two games in a row, you need to, as a group, just reset and focus on your fundamentals, focus on the identity of your football team. Just put one foot in front of the other, not be thinking too much about the telescope, making sure that you're focusing on the microscope and just controlling the things that we can control. That is all this football team needs to do. We have a good team."
The question of how good the Chargers are as a team is debatable. The Chargers were expected to be a playoff team and through six games do not look anything like a playoff team. Staley also commented on that at the press conference on Monday.
"The way that the season has started hasn't been what many would have envisioned on our team, but it doesn't take away from the belief that we have in us making it happen," Staley said. "I think that those of us that are here on a day-to-day basis understand that better than those who aren't. That's why I think us just getting to the practice field on Wednesday, fresh and focused, that we will be able to put a good practice week ready for Chicago."
As Staley mentioned in his press conference, the Chicago Bears are the next opponent for the Chargers. The game is scheduled for Sunday Night, October 29th, at SoFi Stadium and will begin at 5:20 p.m. locally. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
The Bears are 2-5 on the season, but have won two of their past three games. A 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders on the road and a 30-12 win over the Raiders in Chicago should be enough proof that this Bears team is improving. Starting quarterback Justin Fields is out with an injury, so the Bears are going with backup Tyson Bagent, who in his first start led the Bears to victory over the Raiders.
The Bears are 5th in rushing yardage per game in the NFL and 5th in average rush per carry. The Bears are 5th in defensive rushing yardage allowed per game in the NFL and second in average yard per carry allowed. The Bears are a tough, physical team and will want to make this a line of scrimmage game. For the Chargers, this is a must-win game. They will not be facing Mahomes to Kelce this week, but they will have a physical fight on their hands.