Offensive, defensive and special teams keys for the Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) in Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos (7-1) starting at 3:25 p.m. CT at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
When these teams got together in the second week of the season, the Chiefs were able to move the ball against Denver’s defense, something few teams have been able to do this season.
After eight games, the Broncos rank No. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (274.1 per game), No. 5 in fewest rushing yards (93.1 yards) and No. 1 in fewest passing yards (181 yards). The Chiefs ran for 314 yards and scored 24 points in the first game between the teams.
The two most productive parts of the offense that night were the K.C. running game and the Chiefs tight ends. The Chiefs ran for 147 yards on 28 carries against Denver, a 5.3-yard per carry average. No other opponent has run so well against the Broncos defense, although Jamaal Charles was the engine for that performance and he’s unavailable.
Tight ends Travis Kelce (4 catches, 58 yards) and rookie James O’Shaughnessy (2 for 54) combined for six catches for 112 yards, including completions of 30, 29 and 24 yards. It was the most productive day tight ends had when facing Denver’s defense.
The Chiefs must pump up their pass protection; they allowed four sacks of quarterback Alex Smith in the first game. Plus, Smith threw two interceptions. The Chiefs quarterback has now thrown 197 passes without an interception, the longest current streak in the league and among the longest in Chiefs history.
Overall, the Chiefs have 21 sacks and in the first game against the Broncos they took down Peyton Manning three times. Manning has been hit more often this season, but he’s been sacked just 13 times.
There’s always one truth for defenses that face Manning – or any other good quarterback – and that’s making the passer uncomfortable, forcing them to move their feet and become unbalanced as they throw the ball. The pass rush doesn’t have to throw Manning on the ground to affect the Denver offense, but they have to be able to at least breathe on him and upset the Broncos momentum and consistency.
The Chiefs defense has proven pass rush commodities with outside linebackers Justin Houston (5.5 sacks) and Tamba Hali (3.5 sacks.)
In that first game, the Chiefs were without starting cornerback Sean Smith. He’s back now and they must do a better job of handling Denver wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (eight catches for 116 yards) and Emmanuel Sanders (eight catches for 87 yards and two TD catches).
In that September game, Denver had 61 yards rushing on 22 carries, actually one of the Broncos better running performances this season. The Broncos leading rushers are Ronnie Hillman (92 carries for 384 yards) and C.J. Anderson (88 carries for 315 yards), but against the Chiefs they ran 21 times for only 61 yards.
In that first meeting, the stars of the kicking game for both teams were named Colquitt – Dustin for the Chiefs and Britton for the Broncos.
The punters were dominant, as Dustin had a 52.5-yard net average on four punts and Britton produced a 42.7-yard net average on seven punts. In total, both teams had a combined 15 yards in punt returns.
Over the season, there’s little difference between the brothers numbers over eight games. Last week, the Broncos got a big lift from safety Omar Bolden, who took a punt return 83 yards for a score against Indianapolis. Bolden filled in for Sanders, the regular punt returner.
The Chiefs have gone 10 games over the 2014-15 seasons without a return touchdown in the kicking game. They are No. 18 on punt returns (De’Anthony Thomas) and No. 9 on kick returns (Thomas and Knile Davis.)
The Chiefs need a return touchdown, whether in the punt game or on kickoffs from Denver’s strong-legged kicker Brandon McManus.