We chronicled the career and skepticism of new Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer yesterday. Though Plummer has been short of sensational the last three games, he's never faced a team with this much talent or balance defensively.
The Chiefs and their new run defense were somewhat exposed last week in Baltimore by Jamal Lewis when they continually over pursued the NFL's best back and allowed him to get extra yards on cutbacks.
However, their over pursuit against the run can be corrected. They didn't fail on talent instead they didn't execute their assignments when trying to contain the run at the line of scrimmage. Too many times, especially in the fourth quarter, the defensive line and linebackers did not contain the weak side. Lewis cutback and reeled off significant runs in the forth quarter. The Chiefs will correct those assignments this week.
This week won't be an easier for the Chiefs at stopping the run. They Chiefs face another talented running back in the Broncos Clinton Portis. He can slice, dice and cutback with the best of them. But he's injured and with a bruised sternum has been limited in practice this week.
It's likely he'll play since back up running back Mike Anderson is also banged up. The Chiefs have to hit Portis hard and punish him at the line of scrimmage. If he gets into the secondary, then the safeties have to hit him even harder. Portis scored three touchdowns against the Chiefs last year in Denver but Kansas City will be prepared for him this time around.
Even without a healthy Portis the Broncos are a confident offensive football team. Plummer has been sensational in three of the four wins against lesser talented defensive teams.
Against Kansas City, Plummer must continue to move out of the pocket. If the Chiefs can contain him and not allow him to use his feet, then he becomes a less efficient passer. Plummer completes a higher percentage of his passes when he's on the move. He's not a very accurate pocket passer and Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan has designed an offense that allows Plummer to throw the ball using his strengths.
It's nothing new but it is familiar to Chiefs fans. It's the same offensive philosophy that Hank Stram implemented in the 60's. To pull this off, the Broncos use an extraordinary offensive line that might lack size and strength, but they make up for it with a thorough understanding of Shanahan's complex offense.
For the Chiefs defense, they must put pressure on Plummer. The last time he played against the Chiefs was last season when he was the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. Against the ‘32' defense, Plummer threw three interceptions and didn't even play the second half. Now the Broncos are not the Cardinals but Plummer has yet to beat a quality opponent and the Chiefs need to make him do that on Sunday.
The Broncos have a very talented group of receivers in Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith. But the person that the Chiefs must track at all times is Ashley Lelie. He's quietly become Plummer's favorite target.
The other concern for the Chiefs is tight end Shannon Sharpe. He burned the Chiefs for two touchdowns last year and over 200 yards in receiving in the Broncos comeback victory over the Chiefs in Arrowhead.
That game is not lost on the Chiefs. It will serve as a tremendous motivational factor for the home team.
On offense, Trent Green must put this seasons lack of success behind him. Green has four touchdown passes and five interceptions. He had none last week against Baltimore but he looked uncomfortable in the pocket and over threw too many of his passes. If not for the acrobatic catches of Johnnie Morton, Green and company might not have been so fortunate to win last Sunday.
Green must find Tony Gonzalez. Not because Gonzalez is demanding the ball but instead to spread out the Broncos defenders. The Broncos linebackers are fast, quick and aggressive. The Chiefs need to exploit the Broncos secondary which is their weakest position on defense.
Their front seven is active, strong and can disrupt the run and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Linebacker Ian Gold is the second best linebacker in the NFL and he'll likely shadow Chiefs running back Priest Holmes.
The Chiefs need to exploit that weakness by throwing the ball downfield, especially over the middle of the field. Gonzalez should find some open seems and Green needs to get him the ball. Look for Dante Hall to be used like he was last year when he blew up the Broncos secondary with two amazing touchdown catches.
Speaking of the NFL's MVP, Hall could solidify that honor by scoring again this week. He became the first player in NFL history to return a kick or punt in three consecutive games. The Broncos have not performed will in their coverage teams this year and Shanahan has to be concerned about Hall running back another one this week. Hall might not get too many opportunities but when he does, he has to take advantage of them and try and bring it to the house.
Dick Vermeil has the Chiefs playing at their highest level since the late 60's. They've never started a season 5-0 and if they can eliminate turnovers, score points and win the field position battle; they should win with ease. If not and they play like they did in the beginning against Pittsburgh, it could be a long afternoon.
* Both Dick Vermeil and Mike Shanahan won their 100th game as NFL head coaches last weekend. They join a short list of only seven active head coaches who have passed the century mark. The fact that both coaches did it on the same weekend is quite improbable and remarkable.
* The last two games at Arrowhead against the Broncos have resulted in overtime games. The Chiefs lost last year 37-34 and in 2001 they won 26-23.
* The Broncos are the 4th ranked defense in the NFL and the Chiefs currently rank 18th.
*The Chiefs are the second team to start the season 4-0. Their 1996 team accomplished the same mark but ended the year at a disappointing 9-7. Kansas City has never started a season 5-0. The Broncos have been to four Super Bowls when they've started the season 4-0 or better.
Fearless Prediction : Chiefs 38 – Broncos 3
Season Record : 3-1
2003 Game Recaps
Week #1:Chiefs 27 - Chargers 14
Week #2: Chiefs 41 - Steelers 20
Week #3: Chiefs 42 – Texans 14
Week #4: Chiefs 17 – Ravens 10