With both head coaches under intense pressure, Thursday night's contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers is a desperate game for both AFC West strugglers. If the 1-6 Chiefs hope to win on the road, they will need their defense to lead the way.
Head coach Romeo Crennel must scheme ways to stop quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and the rest of the Chargers' offense. Crennel and his defense should follow these two keys.
Double Coverage for TE Antonio Gates
Crennel has had success against the Chargers in the past by taking away Rivers' favourite target, tight end Antonio Gates. Smothering the prolific veteran again will be vital for Crennel's defense.
Crennel must use different combinations of linebackers, safeties and slot corners to bracket Gates. It will be important for the Chiefs to regularly bump Gates and deny him a clean release off the line.
Taking away Rivers' most trusted receiver will force him out of his comfort zone and could lead to some critical turnovers.
Mix up Pressure looks and Blitz packages
Against the New England Patriots in Week 11 of last season, Crennel unleashed a series of complex pressure looks and blitz packages on Tom Brady and his offense. The schemes were keyed by two defensive linemen looks that had multiple blitzers attacking from different angles.
Blitzers were difficult to identify and the coverage behind the myriad pressure was disguised. Linebackers and defensive backs moved around pre-snap and exchanged responsibilities to confuse the Patriots.
New England eventually adjusted to the system and scored a decisive win. But not before Crennel's elaborate blitz packages had baffled and infuriated Brady for most of the first half.
Crennel must attack the Chargers the same way. He needs to challenge Rivers and his ability to adjust to different looks, something which is not his strength.
The Chiefs know better than most that Rivers can become easily frustrated and prone to errors, if he is subjected to frequent pressure. They don't normally like to blitz often, but Crennel and the Chiefs have to be prepared to take some risks in this vital game.
Harassing Rivers and blanketing Gates will be Crennel and the Chiefs best route to gaining only their second win of a disastrous season.