[PUBLISHER’S NOTE, MARCH 1, 2015: Former contributing writer Desmond Bailey wrote this story in 2014.]
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs had an opportunity to launch their 2014 campaign with a victory over the visiting Tennessee Titans.
Instead, they were defeated 26-10 while losing linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito to season-ending Achilles tendon injuries.
The Chiefs (0-1) now enter a four-game, pre-bye gauntlet featuring three battles beyond the cozy confines of Arrowhead Stadium.
The first stop is Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium to face the defending AFC Champion Denver Broncos.
And the Chiefs will play with more patchwork done to the offensive line with Jeff Allen (elbow) on injured reserve.
Allen was already the “next man up” with Donald Stephenson serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. With Allen out, the Chiefs turn to seventh-year pro Ryan Harris.
The Broncos (1-0), led by reigning league MVP Peyton Manning, are an exceptionally formidable opponent.
Manning had his way with the Chiefs in two games last season, totaling 726 yards passing and six touchdowns against two interceptions in two wins.
“Well I think anytime you are dealing with the Peyton Manning’s of the world, those elite guys, they’re a great challenge because they have physical skills obviously to get balls in tight quarters which is challenging in itself,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton explained. “The second part of it is a guy like Peyton is renowned for how much he knows and how well he studies and all that, so that makes it challenging too.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
• The Chiefs currently rank 30th in scoring (10 points), 27th in rushing (67.2 yards) and 25th in passing (178 yards).
• The Broncos head into the game ranked eighth in scoring (31 points), tied for 18th in rushing (102 yards), and 11th in passing (259 yards).
• The Chiefs rank 21st in scoring (21 points allowed), 26th in rushing (162 yards allowed), and 19th in passing (243 yards allowed).
• The Broncos rank 20th in scoring (24 points), fourth in rushing (54 yards allowed), and 30th in passing (354 yards allowed).
THE LAST TIME
The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 35-28 in Week 13 of the 2013 season in Kansas City.
Sunday marks the 109th encounter between the two clubs with the Chiefs leading the series 56-52.
The Broncos, however, boast a 34-16 all-time advantage over the Chiefs in Denver. The Chiefs are also 0-2 on the road and 0-4 overall against the Broncos with Manning at quarterback.
CHARLES CLOSING ON HISTORY
All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles accounted for a league-high 35.3 percent of the Chiefs total yards from scrimmage in 2013. Last week against the Titans, however, he touched the ball 11 times for 34 yards, a mere 13.8 percent of the team’s yardage output.
That trend not only impedes the team’s chances of winning but also stalls his assault on the franchise record for career rushing yards.
Charles (5,842 yards) currently resides in third place behind Larry Johnson (6,015 yards) and Priest Holmes (6,070 yards).
Charles owns a career average of 5.3 yards-per-carry against the Broncos and needs 174 yards to eclipse Johnson. He likely won’t see the 33 carries required to achieve that feat in Denver on Sunday.
However, 16-20 rush attempts would help Charles gain ground on Johnson and, more importantly, aid the Chiefs efforts towards a win.
SMITH, BOWE REUNITE
Strong chemistry between the quarterback and the team’s No. 1 receiver is an essential component to offensive success. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was without his primary receiver Dwayne Bowe in Week 1 due to Bowe serving a one-game suspension.
Bowe’s absence adversely affected the offense as it struggled to move the chains and Smith threw three uncharacteristic interceptions.
Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Doug Pederson feels Bowe’s presence helps Smith, provides leadership and expands what the Chiefs can do offensively against the Broncos.
“I think the biggest thing with Dwayne being back is he and Alex’s rapport, that continuity,” Pederson told the media Thursday. “Alex has that trust in Dwayne being out there, plus just having that veteran leadership on the field with a lot of young receivers that we have.
“He’s a guy that the young guys look up to. Dwayne’s going to get his just like Jamaal is going to get his. Look forward to some big things from Dwayne; however he’s been out a couple weeks now, so we’ve got to work him back slowly.”
It’s been a tumultuous week surrounding the NFL and its investigation into former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for domestic violence.
As a result, the subjects of violence towards women and player misconduct have been thrust into the spotlight during team pressers around the league.
The Chiefs weren’t an exception.
Coach Andy Reid was queried for a comparison between the Rice situation and that of former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Vick joined the Eagles in 2009 under Reid after serving a two-year prison sentence for financing an illegal dogfighting operation.
“I’m focusing in on the Denver Broncos and not the Ray Rice situation right this minute,” Reid told reporters Wednesday. “But we’ve talked to the team about it and addressed it there which is important.”
“As far as Michael’s situation, it was a bit of a different situation. However I felt that as long as they go through the repentance process and do those things that are needed there, there are certain cases people should be given a second chance. That’s what America is. As long as they learn from the situation.”
The key for the Chiefs putting up a competitive and respectable effort against the Broncos will be their ability to convert third downs.
The Chiefs converted an abysmal 1 of 12 (8.3 percent) of third downs against the Titans. A similar effort against the Broncos’ highly volatile offense would prove fatal. Bowe’s return should help there as would a serious commitment to getting Charles more involved on offense.
If the Chiefs can control the clock and finish early drives with touchdowns they have a chance. But that could be a tall order given the ineffectiveness of their offense and the patchwork offensive line.
Meanwhile, Manning could have his way with a defense that will have its field general Derrick Johnson recovering from Achilles surgery.
The Chiefs secondary will have their hands full with receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as well as versatile tight end Julius Thomas. Pressuring Manning into ill-advised throws will be paramount.
Still, it’s almost a far-gone conclusion the Broncos will explode offensively.
The Chiefs best defense may be their offense’s ability to keep Manning & Co. off the field.
Outcome: Broncos 35, Chiefs 17.