The San Diego Chargers are plenty familiar with slow starts.
Up until this year’s successful run out of the gates, the Chargers carried a 6-8 September record in the previous four seasons under head coach Norv Turner. San Diego then historically righted its ship, going 41-15 from October through the end of the regular season and claiming three of four division titles along the way.
Starting slow, but finishing strong has been the Chargers’ M.O. for quite some time.
For that reason, QB Philip Rivers always thought it was possible for the Chiefs to climb back into the division race after a winless September.
“We knew early on in the division when the Chiefs were struggling and the Broncos were struggling, and everyone was saying, ‘all you have to worry about is Oakland,’ we knew that wasn’t the case,” Rivers said.
“We’ve been that 1-3 Chiefs team and we’ve been in those situations around here, so we knew there was a lot of football left and we know that this is a 16-game deal.”
Limiting turnovers appears to be the primary factor in Kansas City’s worst to almost-first turnaround. Since giving the football away 10 times over the first three games (9 in the first two games), the Chiefs have only committed just two turnovers.
Both of those giveaways came last week at Oakland, but one was an intercepted Hail Mary attempt just before halftime.
“We have our theory (for why turnovers were occurring) and I really feel like our guys, just because of the situation and having lost a couple key teammates and players and trying to press a little bit, you start trying to do too much,” head coach Todd Haley said. “You start trying to press and force plays.
“You start carrying the ball poorly because you’re trying to get more yards maybe than are there. I think once our guys relaxed and tried to play the way that we need to play, you saw a significant improvement in technique and decision-making.”
Cassel threw just seven interceptions all of last season.
“I’m taking care of the ball, which is a big part of (the win streak), and also guys are competing,” Cassel said. “The receivers are making big plays and we’re doing a good job in the run game and kind of complimenting the pass game, so it’s been just better overall play altogether.”
The Chiefs have struggled to recover fumbles this season, especially on the defensive side of the football.
In fact, the Chiefs are the only team in the NFL that’s yet to recover an opponent’s fumble. They’re 0/7 on the season.
“I like to go through all of the stats and I think that over the span of the year, that’s one that’s really started to nag at me,” Haley said.
For that reason, the early stages of the Chiefs Friday practice looked a lot like a grade-school tutorial.
In full pads, bodies were flying to the ground and practicing fumble recovery techniques. Coaches barked if players went in head first and did not properly curl themselves around the football.
“We just have not recovered fumbles in general – anywhere – on offense or defense,” Haley said. “I just really wanted to emphasize that. We’re obviously doing something wrong because we don’t recover very many.”
Offensively, the Chiefs have fumbled seven times and lost five of them.
Starting right guard
“Whether it was a fumble or not, when he got there he was a textbook horseshoe around the football,” Haley said of Asamoah’s recover that wasn’t really a recovery. “That’s what we’ve always said and the way we’re always taught since we were youngsters.”
Powe’s Inactive Status
Chiefs sixth-round draft pick
Though Powe spent much of the preseason as a reserve nose tackle behind veteran starter
“It’s a tough deal there, because I think all of those guys are making progress, but we can only take a limited number into the game,” Haley said. “Really, the advantage that any of the guys on the inside have is their ability to play two positions and right now Gordon is that guy.
“It really helps us roster-wise when you have a guy who can be the backup nose, play end and also a little bit in sub-rush. It’s just a numbers game every week.”
Gordon is averaging between 15-20 snaps per game as a reserve defensive lineman.
The Chiefs roster 53 players, but are only allowed to activate 46 players for each game.
McCluster Misses Practice
“He’s fine,” Haley said. “He’ll be back.”
Chiefs Injury Report
RB Dexter McCluster – Did Not Participate in Practice (Not Injury Related)
S Kendrick Lewis – Limited Participation (Ankle)
Chargers Injury Report
TE Antonio Gates missed Friday's practice with a lingering foot injury after participating in a limited capacity Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, WR Malcom Floyd (hip) was able to hit the practice field for the first time this week.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE: DE Luis Castillo (Tibia), G Kris Dielman, LB Shaun Phillips (Foot), RB Mike Tolbert (Hamstring, Hand), TE Antonio Gates (Foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Malcom Floyd (Hip), RB Jacob Hester (Foot), S Darrell Stuckey (Groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Marcus McNeill (Neck), OL Scott Mruczkowski (Neck), RB Ryan Mathews (Thumb)