By Marty Caswell
Injuries Mar Chargers/Chiefs Regular Season Finale
By no means is this the most talented team Chargers team under Philip Rivers. Devoid of Pro Bowlers, (the usual local snubs aside) a dominating defense or an offense, aside from Rivers, that’s going to scare most teams. But it’s a team that finds itself one win away from going to the NFL playoffs for a second straight year.
Win in Kansas City and the Chargers are headed to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or perhaps even Denver. To do so, they will have to beat backup Chase Daniel, after the Chiefs announced Alex Smith is out after suffering a lacerated spleen. This will only spell the second career start for Daniel, who could/should have beaten San Diego last year in the week 17 finale, despite playing behind the Chiefs’ second and third stringers. Daniel was 21-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown versus San Diego, as Kansas City rested most of their starters in advance of the playoffs. (Blame the missed Succup field goal).
By all accounts, it looks as though Trevor Robinson might become the fifth different center to start for the Chargers this season. Chris Watt, who suffered an ankle injury early in the first quarter against the 49ers, was limited on Friday in his only practice of the week. Robinson says the starter mentality is the only way possible for a center to prepare.
“I try to prepare like that every week even if I know I’m not starting because at a position that doesn’t rotate, if there’s something that happens you can potentially be in there the second play and go the rest of the time so if you prepare any other way, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
The Chargers ruled Ryan Mathews (ankle) and Mike Scifres (shoulder) out, while Keenan Allen (shoulder, ankle) is doubtful and Watt (ankle) is limited. Robinson may not spell the only starter change on the offensive line as undrafted rookie free agent Jeremiah Sirles will start at right guard in place of Johnnie Troutman, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.
Wide receiver Eddie Royal marveled at the never-ending shuffle on the offensive line
“It’s been amazing, to be honest with you. You have to give those guys a lot of credit, just being put in that situation is tough and they came in and did great job. That offensive line, they’re such a close group. I mean they all stick together. You talk about families and brothers, I think the offensive line kind of signifies that because of the guys that come in and out, and then to be able to stick together and help the guy out that hasn’t been playing, it’s just been great to see.”
Royal remarked how seamless the transition was during the 49ers game when Troutman went down and Sirles was called into make his NFL debut.
“I got into the huddle one time, there was a time out and was like ‘hey, what are you doing in the huddle?’ and it was kind of a little funny moment that we had there but he stepped in and did a great job. No one even knew the difference.”
The Chiefs find themselves in pretty much the same situation the Chargers needed last season, needing to win and then get some outside help. Kansas City would be in if they beat the Chargers, a Jacksonville win over Houston and a Cleveland win over Baltimore. But Antonio Gates says this game represents the playoffs for the Chargers.
Watch: Antonio Gates on Must-win vs. Chiefs & Message to Rookies
“Our backs are against the wall too. It’s one of those things where our playoffs has started this week. It’s simple. We win, we move forward. We understand the focus and execution that needs to take place in the game, like this game coming up.”
“That’s our job as veterans, to get the younger guys to understand the magnitude of this game. How difficult it is to go into Kansas City & win. The noise, it’s going to be a hostile environment.”
Antonio Gates on what makes this year’s team so special
“Just the will. It’s a lot to be said about the teams in the past as opposed to this team but from top to bottom, the camaraderie, the belief and I think I’ve said this before, there’s no better reinforcement than putting in all this hard work throughout OTA’s, training camp and yet being able to see the reward with the game we had last week and the comeback against Baltimore. To me it makes it all worthwhile and you can see the sense of confidence in the locker room when you have those type of games when you come back down by, you know, 21, 28 points and still come away with the win. So when you’re able to do things like that, it builds confidence, it builds character, and most importantly it builds belief.