- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - If it were up to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, there would be more than just three weeks between Kansas City’s games against the AFC West-rival Chargers.

The way things went in San Diego, the Chargers probably wish for the same thing.

In arguably their most impressive performance during a six-game win streak that has catapulted the Chiefs (7-5) into playoff contention, Smith and Co. routed the Chargers 33-3 on Nov. 22. The game got so out of hand that 346-pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe even had a touchdown run.

“This is kind of strange, to be honest with you,” Smith said of playing again Sunday. “I realize scheduling is never going to be perfect, but … I would prefer more time. I think that’s kind of what the division games are about, playing teams twice - home and away - and the adjustments.

“There’s only so much you can do this late in the season,” he said, “playing so close together.”

That may be to the Chiefs’ benefit, though.

Smith was 20 of 25 for 253 yards in a near-flawless performance in that first meeting. The Chiefs ran for 153 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers’ porous defense. And their defense shut down Phillip Rivers and the San Diego offense, allowing only a second-quarter field goal.

Given the short turnaround, the Chiefs hope little has changed.

“There haven’t been but two games in between,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “but we understand how competitive they are and what kind of football team they are.”

Lately, not a very good one. San Diego (3-9) has lost seven of its last eight games, beating only lowly Jacksonville during that streak. And with the specter of a move to Los Angeles hanging over the once-proud franchise, potential distractions have been abundant.

“That’s just a brain game, in my opinion. I don’t necessarily think it’s a distraction,” Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. “I just know we have four games. … We have to try to make the most of what we have instead of trying to think about what the future holds.”

Outside of the immediate future against Kansas City, of course.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy dismissed the notion that playing the Chiefs again so quickly could be a disadvantage. It’s simply a byproduct of scheduling so that division foes are more likely to face each other late in the season, when there are playoff bids at stake.

“That’s the way the game is these days,” McCoy said. “We’re familiar with them, the coordinators, the head coaches. But everyone else in the league is doing it also.”

As the Chargers and Chiefs prepare to meet Sunday, here are some key storylines:

RUNNING BACK COMMITTEE: The Chiefs’ Charcandrick West returned from a hamstring injury last week at Oakland, sharing carries with Spencer Ware. Reid indicated that committee approach could continue the rest of the season. “As long as we’re winning, I like whatever we’re doing,” West said. “This is not about the individual. This is about the team.”

THIN AT WIDE RECIEVER: The Chargers’ Dontrelle Inman is dealing with a neck strain, Stevie Johnson has a sore groin and Malcom Floyd is still slowed by a torn labrum in his shoulder. They signed Vincent Brown, who was cut by Indianapolis earlier this year, to provide some depth.

TRASH TALK: Rather than take umbrage with the trash talk Rivers has been known to deliver, the Chiefs seem to relish the confrontation. “He gets out there, he talks trash and all that, and he gets you fired up,” Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch said. “It gets your competitive juices flowing.

DROP THE BALL: Running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers’ first-round draft pick, is having a miserable rookie season. He was benched in the second half of Sunday’s loss to Denver after fumbling twice, losing one. He’s fumbled six times this season, losing four, and still hasn’t scored a touchdown. “He’s got a bull’s-eye on him now,” McCoy said. “Everyone on the other team obviously knows that you put the ball on the ground. He’s got to do a better job protecting it.”

AFC WEST WOES: The Chargers haven’t beaten a division foe in more than a year, and have lost seven of their last nine. That includes 0-3 this year, getting outscored 87-35. “This year more than anything, Oakland got after us pretty good, and so did Denver and Kansas City,” Rivers said. “I don’t know that there’s anything more there other than they outplayed us all the way around.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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