Pre-Snap Read: Broncos vs. Chiefs

Today's game against the Denver Broncos is the defining moment of Kansas City's 2005 football season. If victorious the Chiefs will prove their salt and stay alive in their quest for the post season.

If they are beaten it will take a perfect set of circumstances for them to be able to reach the playoffs as a wild card. With a win today the Chiefs will control their own destiny, a loss on the other hand will make them dependant on someone else's misfortune. Outside of the X's and O's the emotional side of this game cannot be overlooked, the rivalry between the Chiefs and Broncos is as bitter as they come. The players dislike one another, the fans hate one another, and when you add this much importance to the outcome of the game it only heightens the amount of intensity.

Both teams will be fired up for today's game but the Chiefs should be the team with the greater sense of urgency. The Chiefs players have been highly focused throughout the week and you can tell by their demeanor in the locker room that this game carries a more serious tone.

Chiefs Offense vs. Broncos Defense
Speed and tenacity might be the two best words to describe the new and improved Broncos defense. You might also throw in the word "confusing" as well, at least if you happen to be the opposing quarterback or center. This season Denver is using more of an eight man front that utilizes twists, stunts, and dogs in combination with a zone blitz to give the offense an ever changing look with constant pressure. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer brings so many different defenders so from so many places that at times his aggressiveness reminds you of Buddy Ryan and his famous 46 defense of the 80's (The scheme currently used by the Philadelphia Eagles Jim Johnson is actually a closer match to the Broncos if you were making an actual technical comparison of defenses).

The Chiefs have already seen Denver's revamped defense once this season when they traveled to Invesco field for Monday Night Football. In that September 26th match-up numerous Denver defenders blasted through Kansas City's make shift offensive line in a 30 to 10 blowout. Of those defenders it was defensive end Trevor Pryce who was the most notable. Pryce was constantly in Trent Green's face and when he wasn't sacking him he was at least hurrying his throws.

In today's game Pryce will find himself lined up against All-Pro and future Hall-of-Fame tackle Willie Roaf. At age 35 Roaf is still the best offensive tackle in the league and a descending player like Pryce should offer little resistance. It is a forgone conclusion that any Denver defender lining up across from Roaf will be negated from the play.

Though Roaf adds a great deal of security to the left side of the offensive line, things are a little less certain elsewhere. In order for Kansas City to overcome the blitz and run the ball effectively they'll need their offensive lineman to consistently win their one-on-one match-ups. This is five on four and the battle in the interior is Brian Waters and Will Shields against Michael Myers and Gerard Warren. Myers and Warren are two of the imports from Cleveland that have helped the Broncos solidify their front seven at the defensive tackle position. If Waters and Shields can contain those two it will open up lanes to the linebackers and once you get a handle on their linebackers you control the heart of their defense.

Linebackers Ian Gold, Al Wilson, and D.J. Williams are probably the best trio of 4-3 linebackers since Baltimore's combination of Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis, and Jamie Sharper. All three of them can run and hit as well as any other player at their position. As vicious as they can be at the line of scrimmage they are also very capable of dropping in to deep coverage to defend the pass. Their versatility is the key component that makes Denver's defense as good as it is.

In order to have success against Denver's defense you first have to negate their linebackers. The only way to accomplish this is to bring in the anti-linebackers which happen to be fullbacks and tight ends. Fortunately for Kansas City they have two of the best in the game with Tony Richardson and Jason Dunn (Center Casey Wiegmann is also heavily utilized against linebackers in a 4-3 defense). The outcome of today's game will rest heavily on the ability of Dunn, Richardson, and Wiegmann to clear out defenders in the second level of the defense. Without this second tier of blocking it will be difficult for Larry Johnson to find much running room and if the running game is shut down it the passing game will soon follow.

Looking at the third level of the defense the amount of success that occurs there will be predicated by time. The offensive line needs to be able to provide Trent Green with enough time to take five step drops and even a few seven step drops here or there. Running the ball effectively will make this a little easier but Kansas City still needs to improve on holding up on third and long when play action passes aren't fooling anyone.

Receiver Eddie Kennison usually has some of his best games of the season against the Denver Broncos. In their last three meetings Kennison has caught 21 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He has also been indiscriminate as to the corner he chooses to victimize and you can bet he'll go after Champ Bailey a time or two if he feels that Bailey might still be nursing a sore hamstring.

In two of their previous games over the past two seasons the Broncos have used Champ Bailey to cover tight end Tony Gonzalez. The Chiefs will likely see more of this in today's game now that Denver has confidence in their two rookie corners Domonique Foxworth and Darrent Williams. This will however be more of a third and long package because it puts Denver in to a nickel defense and leaves them more susceptible to the run.

If the Chiefs see an instance where John Lynch is matched-up with Tony Gonzalez they need to exploit it. Gonzalez will consistently beat Lynch down the field and this is something Kansas City should look for when the Bronco's are in their base defense.

B>Bottom Line
Part of stopping Denver's defense will fall in to the hands of center Casey Wiegmann as he recognizes the Bronco's blitz packages and adjusts the blocking schemes accordingly. Wiegmann will need to have a big day for Kansas City to win this game.

Having Roaf and Welbourn back at the tackle positions will also go a long way in evening the playing field.

Chiefs Defense vs. Broncos Offense
On defense Kansas City's front seven has what it takes to out physical the Denver offense. If the Chiefs want to take control of the game they will need make it a point to play on Denver's side of the line of scrimmage. Now this doesn't mean that the Chiefs play undisciplined football, it does however mean that Chiefs defenders should control their gaps from the marker and back. Last week the Chiefs linebackers did that very thing as they dominated the line of scrimmage. At each snap Kendrell Bell and Derrick Johnson looked like a pair of bowling balls rolling down the lane and knocking over pins, it just so happened that those pins where the New England offensive linemen.

If there is one thing that makes it a little more difficult to attack the line of scrimmage it is the questionable tactics employed by the Bronco's offensive line. For several years the Broncos employed offensive line coach Alex Gibbs who openly encouraged his linemen to use cut on block defenders. Cut blocks are notorious for breaking legs, twisting ankles, and blowing out knees. Consequently many defensive linemen will hesitate a moment to counter the chop block. and shove the offensive lineman's shoulders in the dirt. In most cases however the offensive lineman has done his job by delaying the defensive lineman just in enough to take him out of the play. Today the Chiefs cannot allow it to happen; they need to be coming down hill from the start of the game.

What might be most frustrating part about playing the Denver Bronco's is their ability to be highly effective with very simplistic offense. When you compare their offense to what Bill Belichick runs in New England it like comparing Oxford University to Kindergarten. It is the type of offense you might expect to see run in at a high school so it is rather ridiculous to see so many teams have trouble stopping it at the NFL level.

The key to stopping the bootleg and cutback runs utilized by the Bronco's initially begins with the defensive tackles and middle linebacker. Kawika Mitchell, Lional Dalton, and John Browning have to control the middle of field all by themselves and the rest of the defense needs to have confidence in their ability to do so.

If the middle should begin to cave the defensive ends and outside linebackers will inevitably start shooting to the inside to help out with run support. This ends up leaving no one home on outside containment and this is where the defense begins surrender to bootleg.

The actual responsibilities of the defensive ends require them to come straight up the field with their outside shoulders free. This will funnel any outside run away from the "C gap" and back towards the inside where the bulk of defenders are waiting.

The outside linebackers will usually have the "B gap" responsibility to their side with an additional backside contain responsibility to the opposite "A gap". If both he and the defensive end forfeit their gap responsibilities to support the run inside it leaves a massive open space on the edge of the defense.

Keeping that explanation of fundamentals in mind there is no reason why the Chiefs front seven cannot dominate Denver's offensive line. Other than right tackle George Foster their unit is tremendously undersized. If Gunther Cunningham allows his linebackers to set the tempo and play downhill then Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell, and Ron Dayne are in for a long day.

Jake Plummer seems to have turned over a new leaf this season but is it purely a mirage? Most educated NFL experts would say yes and putting the game in Jake Plummer's hands might be the surest way of beating the Broncos.

If Plummer grew a beard and mustache to hide his identity from Chiefs fans the 80,000 that gather today in Arrowhead will still recognize him as the mistake prone clone of Elvis Grbac always teetering on the brink of an interception.

Kansas City's defense backs should look at Plummer the same way. The one weakness that clearly stands out on Denver's team is their quarterback. If the Chiefs can stop the Bronco's running attack Patrick Surtain and Eric Warfield are more than capable of covering Denver's receivers. This will allow Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight the same type of opportunities they had a week ago against he Patriots. Play center field, read the quarterback, and drive to the ball for an interception.

Bottom Line
The Chiefs must stop the run at all costs but maintain their responsibilities. Make Jake Plummer do his best Peyton Manning impression and then force him in to making mistakes.

Special Teams
No one fears Dante Hall more than the Denver Broncos and he is definitely inside of their heads. Hall's ability to provide the Chiefs with good field position will likely be more important than a single special teams touchdown as a short field will come in handy against this hard nosed Denver defense.

2005 STATS AND NFL RANKINGS
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Total Offense - 367.1 (5th)
Rush Offense - 138.1 (4th)
Pass Offense - 229.0 (13th)
Total Defense - 328.7 (22nd)
Rush Defense - 88.2 (5th)
Pass Defense - 240.5 (29th)
Turnover Ratio - +8 (6th)
Pts./Game - 24.5 (9th)
Opp. Pts./Game - 20.9 (21st)


DENVER BRONCOS
Rush Offense - 165.6 (2nd)
Pass Offense - 195.1 (21st)
Total Offense - 360.7 (7th)
Rush Defense - 79.1 (1st)
Pass Defense - 239.6 (28th)
Total Defense - 318.7 (17th)
Turnover Ratio - +14 (2nd)
Pts./Game - 25.7 (7th)
Opp. Pts./Game -17.3 (7th)


INJURY REPORT


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
FS Jerome Woods - Hamstring – Out
FB Ronnie Cruz - Knee – Questionable
DE Carlos Hall - Hamstring – Questionable
SS Sammy Knight - Ankle – Questionable
OT Jeremy Parquet - Knee – Questionable
DT Ryan Sims - Foot – Questionable
C Casey Wiegmann - Ankle – Questionable
DT John Browning - Knee – Probable
LB Boomer Grigsby - Abdomen – Probable


DENVER BRONCOS
OT Cornell Green - Shoulder - Doubtful
LB Keith Burns - Knee - Questionable
CB Champ Bailey - Hamstring - Probable
RB Tatum Bell - Chest – Probable

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