INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers’ long wait for a shiny new home ends on Sunday when they play their first game in SoFi Stadium. Their first guest though could dampen the housewarming.
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have won 11 of the past 12 in the series and have taken the past six as the road team. Kansas City also looks primed for a repeat run after a convincing 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans in its opener.
The Chiefs have also won 10 straight overall, going back to last season. Coincidentally, their winning streak began with a 24-17 victory over the Chargers in Mexico City.
“They have weapons everywhere,” said Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. “They have the best QB in the league. They have too many weapons over there but we have weapons too. We know they are big-play hunting so we have to eliminate those.”
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The Chargers’ defense has contained Patrick Mahomes at times, but it hasn’t translated to wins. As much as Mahomes has dominated the league in his first two years as a starter, he has been even better in September. He has won all seven of his starts the first month of the season with 26 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has thrown for more than 300 yards in all but one game and has three-plus TDs in all seven.
Trying to get an upper hand over Kansas City is why Los Angeles signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Chris Harris as well as trading up into the first round to take linebacker Kenneth Murray.
“They played us really well last year, that defense, holding us to some low numbers, stuff that we had been trending on getting better numbers, better scores, and all of that different type of stuff,” Mahomes said. “They have a really good defense and a really good scheme. We have to do our best job of being within ourselves and finding a way to put points on the board.”
The Chargers, who are coming off a 16-13 win at Cincinnati, have had a couple of walk-through practices at SoFi Stadium. Coach Anthony Lynn said he thinks they have a familiarity of their new surroundings, which hopefully will help early.
“It seems like the waiting time has gone fast,” said Lynn, who is hoping to direct the Bolts to their first 2-0 start in eight years.
Someone else eager to see the new venue is Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is a Los Angeles native.
“I think it is great for the City of Angels. I’m happy for them to have a beautiful stadium like that,” he said. “The Coliseum is great in their own right, but this one here is a modern day deal and it looks beautiful.”
Los Angeles has a minus-15 turnover differential in its past six games against Kansas City. The Chargers have committed 17 turnovers in those games with the Chiefs converting those into 58 points (seven touchdowns, three field goals).
“It’s ridiculous how many times we have given it away and we have only taken it away twice,” Lynn said. “You’re just not gonna beat this team that way. So that’s, that’s been our primary focus.”
Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire became the youngest player to rush for 130 or more yards and a TD last week.
Running backs coach Deland McCullough said he expects the first-round pick to take even bigger steps this week.
“It’s just the amount of growth that happens from your first full game to your second one, so that’s the part that I’m excited about, that we’re all excited about is,” McCullough said. “I mean, he’s really grown a lot. You’re talking about just from last game to the next practice that we had a few days ago just learning and being able to see on tape.”
Chargers defensive lineman Uchenna Nwosu said Edwards-Helaire has excellent jump-cutting ability, but is also aided by running behind a veteran offensive line.
Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor had a league-low 53.3 percent completion rate last week, but he didn’t commit any turnovers. The points of emphasis this week have been on trying to be more productive on first and second downs in order to stay ahead of the chains.
“They’re going to do a number of different things. But it’s up to us to stay focused on the things that we’re practicing throughout this week and staying true to our game plan,” he said.
The Chiefs will be without their top two cornerbacks to match up against Chargers receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Bashaud Breeland is serving a four-game suspension for off-field issues and Charvarius Ward broke his hand in the opener.
Rashad Fenton, who is in his second season, is in line for his first start after playing in 12 games last season while fourth-round pick L’Jarius Sneed had an interception in his NFL debut.
Allen has 61 receptions against the Chiefs, which is his second-most against an opponent. Williams has been a matchup problem for Kansas City in the past and is averaging 16.9 yards per catch.
Besides preaching turnovers, the Chargers have been stressing trying to apply consistent pressure on Mahomes.
According to Statradar, Mahomes was blitzed nearly 40% of the time by Houston but the Texans were only able to apply pressure on 12% of his dropbacks. Los Angeles got three sacks against Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow last week but all of those came in the first half as the Bengals went to a shorter passing game.
That could be a problem again this week as Mahomes has one of the quickest releases in the league.
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