Derwin James vs. Travis Kelce a key to Chargers-Chiefs matchup

On his most recent visit to SoFi Stadium, Travis Kelce scored the tie and winning touchdowns against the Chargers – both coming in the last 2 minutes and 31 seconds.

The Kansas City tight end had a seven-yard scoring reception with 1:16 onset in Week 15 a year ago and then a 34-yarder from 1:15 in overtime in Week 15.

It must be remembered that Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. was injured early on that night and ended up not in the game.

On Sunday, Kelce and the Chiefs return to SoFi Stadium for another headlining duel against James and the Chargers, the third straight prime-time game between the two AFC West rivals.

“Kelce is always fun to play,” James said. “He knows who I am. i know who he is It will be a Sunday show for sure.”

This is the seventh time James and Kelce have faced each other since James joined the NFL in 2018. For a player who has a history of causing significant damage against the Chargers, Kelce hasn’t done much against James.

If the two match in coverage, Kelce has five receptions in six goals for 32 yards and no touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. He has just 14 yards after the catch and an 18-yard long gain.

When asked Wednesday about James’ performance against Kelce, Chargers coach Brandon Staley pointed to James over any defensive scheme, saying, “These players deserve all the credit when they perform well.”

“The level of play between these two guys and what they do for their teams is just so high,” Staley said. “It’s appreciated that both play at such a high level. Hopefully there will be another show for people on Sunday.”

When those teams last shared the same field — on September 15 in Kansas City — James was perhaps at the peak of his career. Towards the end of the third quarter, he picked up Kelce and slammed him to the ground near the goal line.

In a podcast he does with his brother Jason this week, Kelce joked that he would show up to Sunday night’s game dressed as a professional wrestler.

James puts in another solid performance in prime time. He finished with 13 tackles — the third-highest total of his career — and a forced fumble in the Chargers’ 22-16 loss in San Francisco.

He ripped the ball away from wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk when teammate Asante Samuel Jr. made the tackle in the first quarter. The turnover led to a field goal on a night when the Chargers were battling for points.

“We had really talked about attacking the football in that game,” Staley said. “Asante did a good job holding up Aiyuk and then the second man came in. We preach it all the time. Durwin could prick that ball with his hat.”

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) tackles San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk while Michael Davis (43) pursues.

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) tackles San Francisco’s Brandon Aiyuk while Michael Davis (43) pursues.

(Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press)

Three months after signing a four-year contract extension worth up to more than $75 million with a total guarantee of $42 million, James has another award-winning guy season.

Against the 49ers, he lined up in five different positions and played at least 10 snaps on four of them, according to PFF, with Staley calling the play “one of those Durwin virtuoso performances.”

That kind of versatility, especially in a scheme some Chargers have described as complex, sets James apart NFL-wide.

“It would just be difficult to explain to people the tax that Durwin imposed for a week,” Staley said. “That’s what special players in the league are paid for, for this tax. But he always gets on the bell and there isn’t a role he wouldn’t play for our team.

“I think what he’s doing is he’s playing all these roles at a premium level. That’s the rare thing about him. They don’t have defenders who can do what he can do. That’s why I say you can never take what you see for granted because you can name a handful of people over the last 20 years who do what he does, day in and day out, game after game.

Etc.

Wide receivers Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle) were both limited in practice Wednesday, and the Chargers likely won’t know the game status of either until later this week. … Right tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee), tight end Gerald Everett (groin) and wide receiver DeAndre Carter (ribs) were also limited. Punter JK Scott (illness) has not practiced. … The Chargers added defenseman Tyeler Davison to their active roster from Cleveland’s practice team. They added another defender, David Moa, to their practice team. … The Chargers put defensemen Christian Covington (pectoral) and Otito Ogbonnia (knee) on the injured reserve list.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/chargers/story/2022-11-16/when-chargers-face-chiefs-derwin-james-vs-travis-kelce-grabs-spotlight Derwin James vs. Travis Kelce a key to Chargers-Chiefs matchup

Emma Bowman

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