KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs host the Los Angeles Chargers in their season opener at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday Night Football in what should prove to be a battle for the AFC West crown, even if it’s only Week 2.
Chargers QB Justin Herbert is 2-2 against the Chiefs in his short career and has dueled with Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes every time, but this time around, defense may be the story line.
The Chargers added pass rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson to a defense that already boasted safety Derwin James and pass rusher Joey Bosa.
“Khalil is a great player. I mean obviously they have Bosa already with a lot of other guys that go out there and can rush the passer. They have a good defense everywhere. They have Derwin at safety,” Mahomes said. “So, this is a great defense, a great challenge for us early in the season. I’m just sad Khalil came back man. I though he was out of the AFC West but now he’s back getting sacks again.”
Jackson didn’t play in the Week 1 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders and is questionable to play Thursday night, but Mack finished the game with 3 sacks, 6 combined tackles, 4 QB hits and a forced fumble.
“Not good enough,” Mack said. “Left a lot of stuff out there so come back and get it corrected and get better.”
The Chiefs offensive line will have their hands full when dealing with the dual-pass rush combo of Mack and Bosa, but will be vital if Mahomes looks to have success in the primetime matchup.
“They’re two very special talents, both in their own way. Both have been doing it for a long time as well and they’re very consistent while doing it,” Chiefs LT Orlando Brown Jr. said. “I think they both play with a ton of power; they have a lot of successful moves and different styles in the way that they set up their moves. They’re both really good pass-rushers, we’ll have our hands full this week.”
James said Mack’s addition helps the defensive backfield in coverage.
“It helps a lot,” James said. “The ball is coming out a lot faster. Less people are running routes when those guys are rushing like that because they’re chipping and keeping guys in.”
Even without Mack previously, James has had success against the Chiefs and specifically against All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
“He’s an absolute beast on the defensive side. I got a lot of respect for him both in the pass coverage and just absolutely throwing his weight around,” Kelce said. “A lot of safeties are out here throwing their weight around, but he’s one of the bigger guys that can actually lay the wood.”