If the last two meetings between the Chiefs and Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City are any indication of what we might see on Sunday, you aren't going to want to miss this one.
Two years ago it was Dexter McCluster's 94-yard punt return touchdown in the pouring rain that caused Arrowhead Stadium to erupt as the Chiefs took down the Chargers by a score of 21-14. Last year it was the fumbled snap as the Chargers sat in field goal position with a chance to win the game with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. That's when Chargers QB Philip Rivers dropped the snap from center and Chiefs LB Andy Studebaker eventually recovered the ball, giving the Chiefs new hope that ultimately led to their victory in overtime.
These are two of the most exciting plays for the Chiefs over the past couple of seasons and they've both occurred in Kansas City against the Chargers. To make things even more exciting for this game, the winner of this game will sit atop the AFC West division through the first quarter of the season.
One of the match-ups to watch will be between the Chiefs offensive line and the Chargers defensive line. The Chiefs received some bad news last week when starting center Rodney Hudson was placed on season-ending IR with a broken leg, which he suffered in the Chiefs overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints. Ryan Lilja, the veteran lineman that had been starting at left guard moved over to center after Hudson's injury and rookie second-round pick out of Illinois, Jeff Allen, moved to the left guard spot.
The Chiefs offense moved the ball pretty well against the Saints after Hudson's injury as Jeff Allen stepped in and played pretty well under the circumstances. This weekend will be a little different for the Chiefs offensive line though because they're going to see something they haven't yet seen this season, and that's a 3/4 defense.
The Chiefs opponents thus far this season have been the Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints, and all of those teams play a 4/3 scheme on defense. The Chargers using the 3/4 will mean a couple of things for the Chiefs offensive line.
First, they're going to get out and run in space more often. A 3/4 defense allows the offensive lineman a little more freedom to move around because there's one less guy lining up on the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs already have a new face along the offensive line this week as Jeff Allen prepares to make the first start of his career. Besides that, you've also got Lilja moving over and playing a new spot against a defensive scheme the Chiefs haven't yet had to prepare against yet this season.
One of the most critical things the Chiefs offense must prepare for when getting ready to play against a 3/4 defense for the first time this year are the protection calls. This becomes especially important when you have someone playing center who doesn't have a lot of experience at that specific position. Ryan Lilja may be a veteran OL and he may already know all the calls for he and Cassel to be on the same page, but a 3/4 defense can do so many different things on how and where to bring pressure that he needs to be on his game on Sunday.
It just takes one missed blocking assignment and a free man through the line of scrimmage to make a big defensive play that possibly changes the outcome of this entire game. While a lot of the talk leading up to this game will be about Jamaal Charles and his opportunity to build upon his award-winning performance last week against the Saints, there's just as much riding on Lilja's ability to understand and relay the blocking reads and checks to Matt Cassel. It's their communication that will ultimately decide the success of the Chiefs offense and very simply, the outcome of this game.