AFC Notes: Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders


One of the Chargers’ biggest issues this season has been their third-down defense, ranking 31st so far in the 2021 season under new HC Brandon Staley.

“I think that our guys have come to a lot firmer understanding of how we want to play,” Staley said, via Daniel Popper of The Athletic. “I think that we’re doing a good job of limiting explosive plays, which is a big goal of mine. That’s been a strength of ours. I think that we’re attacking the football. I think that we’re third in the NFL in forced fumbles. I think that’s been a strength of ours. I think that, from a personnel grouping standpoint, we’ve been able to adjust with the attrition. We’ve played a ton of different lineups because there have been so many guys going in and out of the lineup. I think we’ve responded to that well and been able to play good enough defense to give us a chance in these games. We’re not performing well enough at the line of scrimmage in the run game, which is affecting not only our offense but our third-down defense. Then, I think that if we can detail our run defense up and play the way that I know that we’re capable of, we’ll be able to finish this season strong. But that hasn’t been a strength of ours so far, our third-down defense. I was very pleased until about a few weeks ago. We had a couple of tough things happen on third down — penalties and some technique errors and some inconsistency that allowed guys to stay on the field. We’ve worked really hard to address that. We’ve really had to fight this year to figure it out on defense. I think that we’re a work in progress. But I think that we’ve played good enough defense to give us a chance in these games. I think that what we did a good job of is we’ve played some really, really, really good offenses and we’ve been able to go nose-to-nose with them. What we still have to do is have that performance where we win the game on defense. That’s what we’re striving for. When I say work in progress, we’re working really hard so that that happens. What we’ve done a good job of is staying together and figuring it out, coaches and players because it hasn’t been easy. I’m excited that we have six games, and hopefully more, to prove ourselves here at the end.”

Staley went on to point out that the injuries and other issues the team has dealt with over the season have caused attrition amongst their defensive ranks.

“When some of that attrition hit us in the secondary, some of the technique, the communication, and all of these little things that make a big difference started to creep up,” Staley said. “You’re starting to put a lot on the plate of new guys.”

One of the Chargers’ most physical players is RB Austin Ekeler, who despite appearing to be a human pinball, still feels the toll that repetitive hits take on his body as the season rolls on.

“The season is definitely dragging on the body. That’s just how it’s been for all my years,” Ekeler said. “Taking as many snaps as I’ve taken … it definitely starts catching up with you, and it’s conversations that I’ve had with coaches, just making sure my balance is good, making sure I’m not getting overused so we can make it the entire route.”

  • Chargers’ HC Brandon Staley says that C Corey Linsley has his back turned when QB Justin Herbert is calling plays so he can watch the defensive formation: “That’s why he’s the best center in football. That’s why he is a general. That’s why he’s so special.” (Fernando Ramirez)
  • Staley is also glad to have OL Matt Feiler back in the fold this week: “I think sometimes you see the value of people when they’re not there, and I think he certainly fits that description,” (Gilbert Manzano)
  • Staley wants to see a running back like Joshua Kelley step up and earn the No.2 running back role: “Who can we trust in pass protection? Who can we trust on special teams? And that hasn’t happened in terms of the consistency of reliability and availability. We’re just going to keep working that position.” (Manzano)


Chiefs CB L’Jarius Snead explained that his physical style has been a good fit for Kansas City’s defense. 

“I’m still learning as I grow in this scheme and this defense,” Sneed said, via “Basically, Mondays [are] my off days, so I look at wide receivers, just look at their releases and what they do. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I try to study the quarterback and tendencies of what they do. Thursday, I try to put everything together in the whole offense and what they’re doing to attack defenses and stuff.”

I love being physical. Spags [Steve Spagnuolo] likes it. He’s got an aggressive defense and I love being physical myself. On the offensive side, they don’t like that. Receivers don’t like when you put hands on them and stuff like that. Take their heart out of their chest, that’s why I like it.”

  • The Chiefs announced Saturday that OL coach Andy Heck will miss tomorrow’s game due to COVID protocols. Assistant offensive line coach Corey Matthaei will fill
  • The Chiefs will also be without defensive quality control coach Alex Whittingham will miss tomorrow’s game due to COVID protocols. 


  • Raiders’ WR DeSean Jackson provided details about his calf injury: “It was just a spasm in my calf. I don’t think it would be too tough if an issue. Gonna be smart about it, though.” (Paul Gutierrez)
  • The Raiders officially downgraded TE Darren Waller to out for Week 13’s game against the Washington Football Team. Foster Moreau will draw the start in place of Waller. 

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