NFL Preview - San Diego (4-6) at Kansas City (9-1)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to do something they haven't had to do yet this season under head coach Andy Reid: bounce back from a loss.
The Chiefs try to avoid a second setback in a row on Sunday when they play host to a San Diego Chargers team in the midst of a three-game slide.
Kansas City opened up its inaugural campaign under Reid by winning its first nine games and was the lone unbeaten team left in the league ahead of last Sunday night's matchup with the high-powered Denver Broncos.
Coming out of their bye, the Chiefs never led and dropped a 27-17 decision, falling to 9-1 on the year and into a tie for first place in the AFC West with the Broncos.
Alex Smith threw for 230 yards and a pair of touchdown passes while also rushing for 52 yards, but Kansas City's solid defense yielded 427 yards of offense to the Peyton Manning-led Broncos.
"(The Broncos) got us today," Reid said. "We'll bounce back, we'll learn from our mistakes. There are plenty of things we can learn from here and get those fixed."
Reid was denied in his first bid at becoming the 21st coach in NFL history to win 150 games, including the playoffs.
Jamaal Charles ran for 78 yards on 16 carries and both Dwayne Bowe and Anthony Fasano hauled in touchdown passes. Bowe ended with four catches despite getting targeted 14 times.
Kansas City is 5-0 at home this season and will play two straight at Arrowhead Stadium, including a rematch with the visiting Broncos on Dec. 1.
While the Chiefs are still in excellent standings with regards to a playoff berth, the Chargers' three-game slide has dropped the club to 4-6, putting it behind a pair of 5-5 clubs in the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets for the second wild card spot in the AFC.
San Diego lost ground this last weekend with a 20-16 setback to Miami. The Chargers have lost their past three games by a combined 18 points.
Philip Rivers threw for 298 yards with a touchdown while also getting intercepted once. Tight end Antonio Gates hauled in a five-yard score, but San Diego twice had to settle for field goals from Nick Novak from inside 30 yards.
Novak was also good on a 50-yard try.
"We made too many mistakes from start to finish," Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. "We hurt ourselves way too much today."
Ryan Mathews rushed for 127 yards on 19 carries for the Chargers, who have won eight of their last 10 versus the Chiefs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kansas City ranks second in football with 13.8 points allowed per game, and Denver became the first team this season to post more than 17 points against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs didn't have to put too much blame on themselves, instead becoming just another team to fall victim to the hot Manning. Kansas City only turned the ball over once and also had a takeaway of its own, keeping its turnover margin at an NFL-best plus-15.
Kansas City is tied for second in the NFL with 36 sacks, but failed to bring down Manning even once. It will try to get the pass rush back on track versus the Chargers and that should come from linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
The duo have combined for 20 sacks this season and Hali has 10 1/2 sacks in his career versus the Chargers.
San Diego, though, is tied for fourth in the NFL with just 19 sacks allowed.
That kind of protection has allowed Rivers to shine. He is 11 yards shy of his eighth straight 3,000-yard season and has a league-high 70.9 completion percentage. That pace could see him challenge Drew Brees' 2011 single-season record of 71.2 percent.
Rivers and Gates hooked up for the 59th time in the end zone last weekend, the most by a quarterback-tight end tandem in NFL history.
Gates, meanwhile, needs just two receptions and 15 receiving yards to become the fourth tight end in NFL annuals to have at least 700 catches and 9,000 yards. He seems likely to reach that mark in this game and has 13 career touchdown grabs versus the Chiefs.
Though Kansas City's offense ranks 24th in the NFL with 320.0 yards per game, it is fifth in time of possession, holding the ball just over 32 minutes per game. That is in large part to Smith's safeness with the ball and Charles' ability to move the chains.
Smith has been picked off only four times, while Charles leads the AFC with 118.6 scrimmage yards per game. The only thing missing from the back's game this season is the big plays he is accustomed to ripping off.
However, he is averaging 5.3 yards per carry in his career versus the Chargers.
Charles could find some room against a San Diego defense that gives up a league-high 6.3 yards per play. It ranks 16th against the run as well.
Safety Eric Weddle leads the Chargers with 70 tackles and picked up his first sack of the season last weekend, one of four posted by the club against the Dolphins. Weddle has four interceptions his past four games against the Chiefs.
San Diego has given Kansas City plenty of struggles in the recent past and Rivers has been a big part of that. He is 10-4 versus the Chiefs as a starter and is putting together an excellent 2013 campaign.
Facing Rivers could be a concern for the Chiefs, who outside of the Manning brothers and Dallas' Tony Romo have been blessed with facing a number of backup and hobbled quarterbacks.
That could make this interesting, but last week's loss and the tightness of the AFC West prevents this from being a trap game for the Chiefs.
"You know, it's still early. I think a lot of guys on the plane ride back were certainly disappointed, as we should have been," said Smith. "But I think guys understand we've still got everything ahead of us. Everything we want is still ahead of us. We can't have an emotional letdown off of a big week last week."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas City 23, Chargers 17
11/21 14:35:29 ET