Insight From the Experts: Denver vs. KC II

It is time again for our weekly conversation with the real experts of the Chiefs upcoming opponent, the fan who follows the team day in and day out. The Chiefs continue their gauntlet against some of the NFL's elite teams this week by hosting the Denver Broncos.

The Chiefs successfully completed the first round of the gauntlet by defeating the defending NFL champion and current AFC East leading New England Patriots last week 26-16. The gauntlet gets tougher this week as the Broncos are arguably the 2nd best team in the NFL right now. The Broncos dominated the Chiefs in week 3 on Monday night in Denver 30-10.

Our panel consists of the following:
• Sam Dewitt, 26 year-old writer/media relations consultant, from Denver, CO; a Broncos fan for "Eleventy Billion years".
• Jay Gwaltney, 30 year-old network engineer, from Richmond, Virginia; a Broncos fan for 20 years.


Our panel this week is fired up about their team as the Broncos ride into Arrowhead 9-2 and in first place in the AFC West by two games.

Question: During the first game between the Broncos and the Chiefs, the Broncos Defense absolutely stuffed the Chiefs. What makes the Broncos defense so special?


Answer: "Our defense is special because of the blitz packages we'll throw in at random times, and the pocket collapse we get from our front four. We feel a little safer leaving our CBs on an island thanks to the high quality of player we have in those spots. Champ is back to being Champ, while Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth are both proving to be very good draftees." – Sam Dewitt

"The secondary has two rookies and though the stat sheet will tell you the Broncos pass defense is ranked very low. Teams have to throw on the Broncos because of the huge upgrade along the defensive line. Warren, Brown, and Ekuban have really made a difference. Pryce feeling healthy doesn't hurt either. Plus teams have gotten behind and had to abandon the run. Regardless, QB's have less time to set their feet unlike last season with a completely depleted defensive line." – Jay Gwaltney

Question: Larry Johnson has over 950 yards rushing in only 4 starts. He's rushed for over 100 yards in each of his 4 starts. How does the Chiefs rushing attack stack up against the Broncos rush defense, ranked 2nd in the league, yielding less than 80 yards per game?

Answer: "Honestly, out of every back we've faced this year, Larry Johnson scares me the most. He's a house coming through the lane, is very difficult to tackle, and has speed in the open field. I've been very impressed with him. That said, I think he'll go slightly above what we average, but wouldn't expect much more than that." – Sam Dewitt

Question: Trent Green and the Chiefs passing offense has had come alive the last two games. How does the Chiefs passing offense stack up against the Broncos pass defense which is ranked 28th in the league?


Answer: "Pretty well. If you had a good receiver instead of that quitter Kennison, you'd be in better shape. But Gonzales is still a great player and will probably be the most successful receiver in this game." – Sam Dewitt

Analysis: Having watched the Broncos defense over the course of this season, there is no denying they are a special unit. They combine tremendous speed with physical violence. The Broncos have one of, if not the, best defenses in the league. Chiefs' fans will recall that the Broncos defensive line destroyed the Chiefs in their first meeting. Trevor Pryce moved all over the line and embarrassed each member of the Chiefs offensive line at some point in the game.

Star cornerback Champ Bailey missed several games due to an injury sustained trying to tackle Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson. In his absence the Broncos saw the maturation of Dominique Foxworth and Darrent Williams. Both rookies are playing at a high level with a great deal of confidence now.

Sam Dewitt is correct, the Chiefs don't have a dominant wide receiver. However, a look at the stat lines against the Patriots reveals something very interesting. The Chiefs had 4 receivers with over 60 receiving yards and another with over 50. If the offensive line (finally healthy with the return of Willie Roaf) can give Trent Green time to get that type of distribution, the Chiefs passing game will be very difficult to defend. It has been that type of distribution that has kept the Chiefs atop the NFL's offensive rankings the past 4 seasons.

Larry Johnson is indeed proving to legitimate weapon in the backfield. Johnson's strength, running between the tackles, may be the best attack of the Broncos rush defense. The Broncos defensive line is smaller than most, but much quicker and faster than most. The best way to attack speed is to run straight at it. The Cowboys had moderate success when they did so.

If the Chiefs run Larry Johnson between the tackles with Tony Richardson as the lead blocker, the Chiefs may be able to move the ball. Johnson may not be able to break the 12 to 18 yards runs against them, but he may be able to get the 4 to 6 yard runs. The ability to run the ball will open up play action passing and allow Green to distribute the ball to his 5 different receivers.

Question: Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne have proven to be the best RB combination in the league. How do they stack up against the Chiefs run defense that is 5th in the league, yielding less than 90 yards per game?

Answer: "The Chiefs run defense is an enigma to me. I haven't seen too many Chief games this year, but I would imagine Gunther is trying to stop the run by bringing people up. I think the Chiefs run defense will yield more than 100 yards this Sunday, but no one back will grind it out for that much." – Jay Gwaltney "Considering that Anderson/Bell ran for more than 200 yards combined against the Chiefs D at Mile High, I'd say they stack up pretty well." – Sam DeWitt

Question: Jake Plummer has been playing mistake free football and the Chiefs pass defense is ranked 29th in the league. How do you asses this match up?

Answer: " I think with Plummer you're always talking about the ability to throw the turnover, but he's the same guy as last year. It's just that last season the ball bounced around after hitting a receiver in the hands. That's happened this year, but defenses just haven't come up with the ball. It's a game of inches and luck after all. Plummer has been a solid QB in Denver. It's obvious at this point that he didn't have the type of coaches in AZ as he does in Denver. The only thing that can't be quantified is his maturity. Jake will be Jake this Sunday, and any secondary can take advantage of that. The key is for the defensive line to take away the run, which kills the bootlegs and play action."– Jay Gwaltney

"Jake should be able to tee off without many mistakes against this KC defense. The interceptions the Chiefs got against New England were a result of passes over the middle that were tipped or overthrown, and are, in my mind at least, fluky." – Sam DeWitt

Analysis: I'll first take a minute to correct Mr. DeWitt. Anderson and Bell combined for 145 yards against the Chiefs in the first meeting. The Broncos got another 55 yards from Ashley Lelie on reverses. That being said, he has a valid point. The Broncos ran the ball well against Kansas City before. Add into that mix the reverses that Denver seems to execute extremely well against the Chiefs and the bootleg runs that Jake Plummer uses to kill the Chiefs; the Chiefs run defense has a difficult task in front of it. The key will be penetration, disruption and discipline by the front four coupled with focus, sure tackling and discipline by the linebackers. Denver Head Coach Mike Shanahan will attack the Chiefs in a variety of ways. Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham needs to have his men up to and ready for the challenge.

Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith has had monster games against the Chiefs. The Chiefs must find a way to keep him in check. The Chiefs will have Patrick Surtain and Eric Warfield on the field together this game. That duo matched against Smith and Lelie should be a very good matchup. The key still remains being disciplined enough to handle the five to eight bootlegs that will be thrown at the Chiefs. In fact, the Chiefs should expect a bootleg or reverse the first play of the game. That seems to be a Shanahan trademark against the Chiefs.

Conclusion: The Chiefs and Broncos enter this game with a reversal of fortunes from the previous meeting. The Chiefs had an opportunity to greatly dash the Broncos playoff hopes and take a strangle hold on the AFC West during their previous meeting. They failed. The Broncos now have that opportunity. A loss to the Broncos would virtually eliminate the Chiefs from the AFC West title race and possibly from the AFC playoff race. A win would allow the Broncos to at a minimum maintain their two game lead in the AFC West with only four games to play.

They could also end the day with a two game lead in the race for a first round bye in the playoffs if the Cincinnati Bengals should fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This game will have a mountain of playoff implications to it and the Chiefs need to match that intensity level. The key will be the play of the offensive and defensive line. Whichever line wins the trenches, that team will likely win the game.


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