The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hit the road for the first time in 2020 on Sunday for an AFC West matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are playing their first-ever game at brand-new SoFi Stadium, which opened Sunday night when the Rams hosted the Dallas Cowboys.
The Chargers (1-0) opened the season with a 16-13 win at Cincinnati. The team, which spent the previous three seasons in Carson, Calif., makes the short trek north on the 405 freeway to Inglewood and their new home, completing a relocation from San Diego.
Rookie running back Joshua Kelley rushed for the Chargers’ sole touchdown, filling in for Justin Jackson in Week 1. Jackson remains questionable with a quadriceps injury.
The new look isn’t limited to the stadium digs for the Chargers. Gone is Philip Rivers, the team’s starting quarterback since 2006, and Tyrod Taylor started Week 1. He went 16 of 30 for 208 yards.
While Los Angeles played clean football with no turnovers, Taylor said Wednesday that improved efficiency is an emphasis against a high-scoring Kansas City side.
“We’ve got to be better on third down than we were last week,” Taylor said, “and we have to execute better in the red zone.”
The Chargers converted 6 of 16 third downs, failed on two fourth-down conversion tries, and scored just the one red-zone touchdown.
Offensive guard Trai Turner’s likely return to the offensive line — he participated in limited practice on Wednesday — could provide a boost. Center Mike Pouncey remains questionable with a hip injury.
Kansas City (1-0) is rested. The Chiefs rolled past Houston in the first game of the season on Sept. 10, 34-20. Kansas City led 31-7 early in the fourth quarter and Patrick Mahomes tossed three touchdown passes.
Mahomes, coming off a stellar 2019 in which he passed for more than 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, said he feels more comfortable in the offense in 2020.
It helps to have Clyde Edwards-Helaire, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2020, who rushed for 138 yards against Houston.
Mahomes also cited an increased willingness to make checkdown passes for his relaxed approach.
“All of us want to go for the big shot, all of us want to go for the touchdown pass every single time,” he said. “But if defenses are going to play us back, and they’re going to play us in coverage, I’m going to take the stuff underneath and let the guys make plays.”
Mahomes spread completions among six receivers. Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill all caught TD passes in Week 1.
“They’ve got weapons everywhere,” said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who beat Kansas City in 2018, the franchise’s only win against its division rival dating to 2013. “We’ve done a good job in the past controlling explosive plays in this game, and I expect us to do the same [on Sunday].”
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said the Chargers’ stout defensive line gives them a chance to win every game. That includes defensive end Joey Bosa, who had a sack at Cincinnati but missed practice Wednesday with a triceps injury.
“They’re fully loaded up front,” Reid said. “They have a great scheme, and then they’ve got really good players. And [Joey] Bosa, listen, he’s one of the best players in the National Football League.”
Los Angeles is also coming off a strong performance in the secondary, particularly from AFC Defensive Player of the Week Casey Hayward. He made 12 tackles and drew a critical offensive pass interference on A.J. Green in the game’s final minute.
Kansas City’s own defensive line could be in need of reinforcements. Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders (elbow) and end Alex Okafor (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Charvarius Ward was out with a hand injury.