Each week, Baltimore Sun reporters Aaron Wilson and Matt Vensel will look back at the Ravens’ previous game and that of their next opponent.
Chargers 37, Chiefs 20
Strategy: On Sunday, it appeared the Chiefs’ offensive strategy was to shoot themselves in the foot. They turned the ball over six times, including four times in the first half. Despite falling behind early, they were relatively balanced, giving the ball to speedy running back Jamaal Charles and throwing the ball all over the field, often times to physical wideout Dwayne Bowe. Defensively, the Chiefs used a 3-4 front, did not blitz much and relied on a lot of man coverage. In third-and-long situations, the Chiefs liked to employ five or six defensive backs on the field.
Personnel: The Chiefs have a strong pair of edge rushers in Tamba Hali and 2011 third-round draft pick Justin Houston. Nose tackle Dontari Poe, a 2012 first-round draft pick, is trying to find his way early in his rookie season. The Chiefs have developed a pair of towering starting wide receivers in Bowe, a Pro Bowler in 2010, and Jonathan Baldwin. They use running back/receiver Dexter McCluster all over the field in their myriad of formations and personnel groupings.
What went right: The scoreboard won’t show it, but the Chiefs actually didn’t play that poorly defensively; five of the turnovers happened inside Kansas City territory. They fared well against the run, and they got good performances from top defenders Hali, cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebacker Derrick Johnson. The San Diego Chargers had no answer for Bowe, who had seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. Jamaal Charles nearly had 100 yards, too, and scored on a long, meandering touchdown run. Maybe most importantly, this team did not quit.
What went wrong: The defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive for the third time in four games then the offense coughed up the ball twice in the first quarter to help the Chargers build a 20-0 lead. Overall, Charles fumbled twice and quarterback Matt Cassel threw three picks. They struggled to cover running backs out of the backfield — Chargers backs had 10 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown — and free safety Eric Berry lost track of tight end Antonio Gates to allow a couple of big gains. And you can count a botched extra point to their many miscues.
Turning point: The Chiefs, trailing by 14 points at the time, had the ball late in the second quarter with a chance to get back into the game. But Cassel threw a pass behind tight end Tony Moeaki in the flat. The ball ricocheted off of Moeaki’s hands into the arms of linebacker Donald Butler, who returned it 21 yards for a touchdown.
X-factor: The Chiefs have a number of players who could cause the Ravens problems — Charles, Bowe, Hali, Flowers are among them — but they won’t stand a chance at Arrowhead Stadium this weekend if Cassel doesn’t play much better. Fans and newspaper writers are calling for him to be benched, and if he has another shaky performance, we may be treated to a Brady Quinn sighting. Cassel, who has now fumbled four times and thrown seven interceptions this season, looks nothing like the guy who threw 27 touchdowns while earning an invite to the Pro Bowl in 2010.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun