KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Chiefs have taken on an almost unbeatable air in the AFC West during the past six years, not only winning the division each time but losing just six games total against some of their longest-standing rivals.
Except when it comes to the Los Angeles Chargers.
They’ve showed no fear in splitting their past four meetings with Kansas City, including a win last season in Arrowhead Stadium. And after making a series of offseason moves -- like signing Khalil Mack, who had three of their five sacks in their opener against the Raiders -- designed to deal with Patrick Mahomes and rest of the Chiefs’ dynamic offense, the Chargers have every reason to be confident about facing the Chiefs again tonight.
“They came in last year and beat us,” Mahomes said. “They’re going to be ready to go. They’ve won here. They’re not going to be scared to come in and play. We have to have a better mindset that we have to play well from the start.”
The Chiefs did that in their opener in Arizona, when they marched for touchdowns on their first three offensive series and were never seriously threatened in a 44-21 romp. Mahomes ended up with 360 yards passing and five TDs, dismissing any notion that the Kansas City offense would languish without wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
The defense also played well, holding Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to seven points into the fourth quarter.
Sounds like a team worthy of being feared.
“I think the optics of Tyreek leaving -- they were a really good football team. They had a lot of good players when he was there, too,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “It’s just when you have a player that’s as special as Tyreek, maybe the other players don’t get the same amount of attention. They’ve really onboarded a lot of players that allow them to truly spread the field and spread distribution, run and pass, and make them really tough to defend.”
For their part, the Chargers defended the Raiders quite well in a 24-19 victory that was well in hand most of the way.
Mack made the biggest dent, but Joey Bosa added 1½ sacks and the Chargers finished with six as a team. They also picked off Derek Carr three times while forcing three fumbles, though the Raiders hopped on all of them.
“We’ve been preparing for this game for a long time,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “We’ve had the offseason to think about this. We’ve had training camp. We had the additional practices between training camp and the first game. We’ve been watching them and we’ve been preparing for them. We’ll be ready.”
Here are news and notes heading into the 7 p.m. contest:
• The Chiefs will be without kicker Harrison Butker, who sprained his ankle on a kickoff in Arizona, forcing safety Eric Reid to handle most of the kicking duties the rest of the way. They signed former Jets kicker Matt Ammendola to their practice squad and will likely elevate him for the game, but he would have little practice time with the rest of the kicking unit.
• Kansas City emerged as one of the NFL’s best offensive lines last season, allowing the third-fewest sacks in the NFL, and promptly held Arizona without a sack. The Chargers likewise did not allow a sack against the Raiders.
• Arrowhead Stadium has long been among the toughest venues for visiting quarterbacks in the NFL; it holds the Guinness record for loudest outdoor stadium.
Yet Herbert has a chance to join Craig Morton and Ken Anderson as the only QBs to win their first three starts there tonight.
“Every year he seems to get better,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
“He’s very smart. He understands where to go with the ball, so you know he’s got a real good grasp of the offense. And he’s accurate. He does a nice job and that’s not getting any worse as he goes, he’ll just keep polishing that moving ahead. The experience is everything now.”