The Kansas City Chiefs have already made Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford look like pro bowl quarterbacks after the first two games of the season. Fitzpatrick went 17-25 for 208 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 week one blowout, Stafford followed that up with a 23-39 for 294 yards and four touchdowns and one interception-performance in week two.
Now the Chiefs will travel to San Diego to face the Chargers and face a legitmate top-5 quarterback. It's not that Fitzpatrick and Stafford won't someday, or even this year, be on the same level as Phillip Rivers. But for right now they're not on that level. If the Chiefs defense has already given up eight touchdown passes to just one interception so far this season, who's to think that they won't give up seven touchdowns and 500 yards to an elite quarterback?
Whatever plan the Chiefs had devised headed into the games against Buffalo and Detroit, they need to change their plan and come up with a new strategy against Rivers. Obviously each game is different and the offenses are a little different so the game plan wasn't the exact same for the two losses. But the outcome was the same so maybe it's time for a new line of thinking.
The Chiefs played a whole lot of nickel and dime formations against the Bills and Lions. This is supposed to help the secondary by bringing in an extra defensive back, most likely to help offset the season-ending injury to strong safety Eric Berry. But so far after two games it doesn't look like the extra DB is helping shutdown the opposition's passing game. Not to mention the defensive lineman in the nickel, Allen Bailey and Wallace Gilberry, have both struggled mightly against the run. So if the extra DB is bringing in players that are soft against the run and not helping shutdown a passing game, why continue to use it?
The Chiefs need to put more pressure on the quarterback and they can do that by keeping Justin Houston in the game with the regular 3/4 defense and sending him after Rivers consistently. I'd go as far to say that the Chiefs should blitz on almost every play. Sure, it's a gamble to leave holes in the defense by sending extra guys. But let's be honest, there are plenty of holes in the Chiefs defensive secondary right now and giving them an extra DB hasn't helped the situation. Getting after Rivers seems like a safer bet than sitting back and watching him pick apart our secondary.
We can't sit back on defense and go toe-to-toe with the offensive weapons they have at their disposal. They are far too talented to not pick us apart. We need to be the aggressor and send the house after Rivers and try to force him to make a mistake or two. They'll have some big plays with this plan but they'd probably have some big plays no matter what plan we decide. At least this way we're not being reactionary to what an elite quarterback has already shown us that he can do, just two weeks after a couple of non-elite (yet) quaterbacks have already done to us.
The size mismatch between San Diego's wide receivers Vincent Jackson (6'5 230lbs) and Malcom Floyd (6'5 225lbs), and our cornerbacks Brandon Flowers (5'9 187lbs) and Brandon Carr (6'0 207lbs), creates a situation in which the corners will most likely be playing back against these players. They want to create enough room that they can attack and make a play without being crawled upon every play when the ball is in the air. But if they're going to play back anyways, why not bring the pressure and give these cornerbacks a chance to react to Rivers throwing the ball early? By playing back they will have a chance to see the play develop and be able to come up and make a tackle to prevent a big play in case the pass is completed.
The Chargers are missing one piece of their offensive puzzle that made blitzing much more troubling in the past. Darren Sproles left the Chargers and is now a member of the New Orleans Saints. He was always the one player that could make you pay if you blitzed and they got him the ball in open space. It's not that Ryan Matthews or Mike Tolbert can't be the guy to catch those passes now, but they aren't even close to the same type of explosive player that Sproles has shown to be throughout his career.
The one player that must always be accounted for when blitzing the San Diego Chargers is tight end Antonio Gates. Despite a zero catch performance against the New England Patriots last week for the Chargers, Gates remains the center point of stopping the Chargers offense. If the Chiefs are going to bring the pressure against the Chargers, they must always account for Gates as the quick hot-read for quarterback Phillip Rivers.
After being out-scored by a combined 89-10 in the first two games of the season, the Chiefs don't have a lot of reason to feel good about where they're at as a team right now. Combine that with the season-ending injuries to three of the top players in Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs will be heavy underdogs in this game on Sunday. But anytime you hear about an underdog beating a heavy favorite you always hear the same thing regarding the little guy. They came out with a fight and weren't afraid to bully the bullies. That's what the Chiefs need to do on Sunday if they're going to win this game and they can do that by making a concerted effort to get after Phillip Rivers. They can play on their feet or on their knees, I'm hoping they pick to fight on their feet.