The Denver Broncos played a good game overall in Kansas City. Their defense, however, played an excellent game, from start to finish. Every aspect of the defense seemed to be in sync. While they did play an excellent game, there were some issues that could be worked on, but not many. The issues they did have were more because of a single player, than the unit as a whole.
Playing the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos needed to return to their former selves in stopping the run. Four weeks ago, they were the top run defense in the NFL, then they played the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, where they had issues, allowing over 100 yards rushing and almost 100 yards rushing, respectively.
Against the Chiefs excellent rushing attack, the Broncos only allowed 41 yards on the ground. With the defense returning to their strength against the run, if forced the Chiefs to be one-dimensional with their passing game, which isn't their strength. That led to the Broncos dominating the game, despite the score leading some to believe it was closer than it appeared.
Now onto the player grades. Each player starts off with a C grade. A positive impact on a play raises their grade, while a negative impact on a play lowers it. As always, for the defense, we will start off on the defensive line.
Snaps: 43. Stats: 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 2 hurries, 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops and 1 interception.
Ware undoubtedly played his best game in a Broncos uniform and probably one of the best of his career. The Chiefs offensive line had no idea how to slow him down, in both the run and pass game. He was consistently getting pressure on the Chiefs QB. If one play hadn't been called a read-option, Ware would have another sack. On sacks he didn’t quite get, he was often the second man there. His grade: A+.
DE/DT Derek Wolfe
Snaps: 33. Stats: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 hurry, 3 tackles and 1 stop.
Wolfe also played a great game; one of the best in his career. He returned to form as a run defender, after being in a slump. He also showed up big as a pass rusher, getting pressure on the Chiefs QB consistently. He also dropped back into coverage twice, one of which he was matched up with tight end, Travis Kelce, who Wolfe stuck by, until the Broncos sacked the QB. His grade: A.
DE/DT Malik Jackson
Snaps: 25. Stats: 1 QB hit, 2 hurries and 1 missed tackle.
Jackson played a solid game when getting after the quarterback. He would get pressure, then be shut down at the line of scrimmage. In run defense, he struggled. At times, he looked strong at the point of attack, but those times were few and far between. He was mainly taken out of the play on a consistent basis. He also risked a couple flags with late hits, but the flags were not thrown. His grade: C-.
Snaps: 4. Stats: None.
Smith stepped in to play four snaps; three rushing the passer and one in run defense. As a pass rusher, he looked solid. He wasn’t shut down at the line of scrimmage, and got decent push. On one play, he got excellent pressure on the QB, before running into a teammate. The play resulted in a fumble by the Chiefs that was recovered by the Broncos. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 22. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 tackle, 1 stop. 1 batted pass.
Knighton had a major impact on the game. He was getting good pressure up the middle and when he wasn’t, he got his hands up to potentially bat the ball down. He eventually got that batted pass, which ended up being picked off by Ware. He also clogged up the interior running lanes for the Broncos. Knighton has been up and down on the season, but this game he was up. His grade: A.
Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 quarterback hurry.
Coming out of college, Williams was known for his interior pass rushing skills. Those skills have not been displayed consistently in the NFL. Instead, he has become a solid interior run stopper. He clogs the lanes and is hard for opposing offensive lines to move. Facing off against the Chiefs, it was no different. He was unable to show his pass rushing skills, but instead, displayed good run defense. His grade: B.
DT Mitch Unrein
Snaps: 13. Stats: 1 tackle and 1 stop.
Unrein was great for the Broncos. He was easily the second best interior defensive linemen. He was clogging the running lanes with ease and getting pressure, seemingly at will. His best play came on a run play where he split the double team and forced the ball carrier to the other side of the offensive line. The play resulted in a tackle for a loss. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 1. Stats: None.
Marvin has done something to displease the coaching staff. He went from the No. 3 defensive tackle and pushing for the No. 2 spot, to the No. 4 DT just fighting for playing time. Against the Chiefs, he saw one snap as a pass rusher and got decent push. His grade: C+.
SLB Von Miller
Snaps: 43. Stats: 2 sacks, 1 QB hit, 4 hurries, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops. 1 batted pass.
Miller played an excellent game from start to finish. He started off slow as a pass rusher, but was playing excellent run defense. As the game wore on, he turned up his pass rush and wreaked havoc on the Chiefs offensive line. Almost every passing play, Miller was near the QB, turning up the pressure, and it showed in some of the choices the QB made. His grade: A.
MLB Brandon Marshall
Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 sack, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, and 3 stops. Targeted 3 times, allowing 2 catches for 5 yards.
Marshall has become a great player for the Broncos. When the season started, he filled in for the injured Danny Trevathan, and he also came through when Trevathan got hurt again. For a time, Marshall was beginning to show some issues in coverage, but they were gone against the Chiefs. His run defense is excellent. When Trevathan comes back, Marshall will likely take over the "Mike" LB position, with Trevathan returning to the "Will" LB. His grade: B+.
WLB Steven Johnson
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle and 1 missed tackle. Targeted 2 times, allowing 2 catches for 39 yards and 1 touchdown.
Johnson's performance was terrible. When defending against the run, he was consistently plugging the wrong hole, which, when the defensive front is doing their job, is covered up by another defender. His pass coverage was putrid too. He was often playing closer to the line of scrimmage ,giving his assignment plenty of space to make the catch and pick up yards after the catch. His grade: F.
SLB Lerentee McCray
Snaps: 4. Stats: 1 QB hurry.
McCray played well in his limited snaps. On one play, he got great pressure on the QB and forced him to roll out off the right tackle. However, McCray ended up running into Quanterus Smith to negate the pressure they applied from the snap. His grade: B-.
WLB Todd Davis
Snaps: 1. Stats: None.
Davis stepped in on defense for one snap in coverage. He played it well and stuck with his assignment. His grade: C+.
CB Chris Harris
Snaps: 47. Stats: 3 tackles and 1 stop. Targeted 7 times, allowing 4 catches for 23 yards. Deflected 1 pass.
Harris has consistently been the top cornerback in the NFL and that was no different against the Chiefs. He wasn’t just excellent in coverage, but also in run support. When he did allow a catch, he was quick, as always, to make the tackle for a small gain. Harris is an “undersized” CB, but he plays bigger than he is and has shut down receivers bigger than he. His grade: A.
CB Bradley Roby
Snaps: 46. Stats: 2 tackles and 1 missed tackle. Targeted 2 times, allowing 2 catches for 31 yards. Recovered 1 fumble.
With Aqib Talib out with an injury, Roby had to step up into the starting role and he did not disappoint. Roby looked like a tenured NFL veteran against the Chiefs. He shut down the Chiefs receivers and took his assignment out of the play. He did allow two catches, but was quick to make the tackle, allowing only 7 yards after the catch. His grade: A+.
CB Tony Carter
Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 tackles and 1 stop. Targeted 5 times, allowing 3 catches for 34 yards and 1 touchdown.
"Sticky man” was not so sticky against the Chiefs. Carter struggled all game, but the worst was when he allowed a catch to Jamaal Charles, and failed to make the tackle, as Charles went into the endzone for the score. On top of that, he made a great stop on a play where he clearly committed pass interference but was not called for it. His grade: F.
SS T.J. Ward
Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 sack, 5 tackles and 2 stops.
Ward has been on a streak of great play lately. Some credit goes to defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, for finding the proper way to use Ward. He has been playing closer to the line of scrimmage on a more consistent basis and it shows in the run defense. In coverage, Ward has struggled less and less the past few weeks, instead of being the liability in coverage, like he was for a multiple-week span, closer to the start of the season. His grade: A+.
FS Rahim Moore
Snaps: 47. Stats: 1 tackle and 1 missed tackle. 1 forced fumble.
Like Ward, Moore has turned his bad season around by playing some great football lately. He did miss a tackle against the Chiefs, which was the worst part of his game. Later, he lowered his shoulders and put a hard hit on a Chiefs receiver to force a fumble, which was easily his best play of the day. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 sack, 1 tackle and 1 stop. Targeted 2 times, allowing 2 catches for 21 yards.
Carter played a solid game. He showed some problems in coverage, but was near excellent in defending the run. His best play came on a delayed blitz, where he got to the QB and brought him down for a sack. His grade: B+.
As a unit, the Broncos defense played a great game. Their only issues came at an individual level, which is a whole lot better than as a unit. For the first time this season, every aspect of the Broncos defense seemed to be clicking in unison with one another. The secondary held up in coverage and didn’t let down the pass rush and the pass rush didn’t let the secondary down by giving the QB a lot of time in the pocket. Moving forward, this is how the Broncos need to play on defense. They have a fire in them and need to keep it burning.
Next up, the Broncos take on the Buffalo Bills at home. At this point, every game for the Broncos is a must win, due to the tight playoff race in the AFC. They can clinch a playoff spot however, with a win and some help.