The Kansas City Chiefs saw their nine-game winning streak end Sunday as they lost to the Denver Broncos 27-17.
On the positive side, the Chiefs held the Broncos to the least amount of points they have had all season. This was due to the Chiefs’ defensive secondary playing very well. Peyton Manning was held to his second-lowest quarterback rating and completion percentage all season.
A team that had 35 sacks in their first seven games could not get to the quarterback even once against the Broncos. They could never sack the hobbled Manning, which cost the Chiefs greatly and the scoreboard shows it.
With a decent pass rush, the Broncos offense may be significantly less productive when they play the Chiefs again at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Dec. 1. The good play of the Chiefs cornerback and hits on Manning may be enough to take down the Broncos.
But the Chiefs, and all defenses that play the Broncos, have one major problem. With Manning, defenses need all the players they can get in coverage. The Chiefs cannot afford to blitz and take valuable defenders out of coverage. This means that getting a pass rush is all about one on one battles, not creative blitzing. The Chiefs did not win those match-ups on Sunday, and in turn they didn’t win the game.
The Chiefs’ offense looked abysmal for most of the contest. Poor offensive line play, dropped passes, overthrown passes and penalties are all to blame.
Quarterback Alex Smith was under duress throughout the game. His elusiveness was the reason he was only sacked three times. The offensive line just could not get the job done against the Broncos. Being under pressure caused Smith to throw some bad passes, which is why his stat line – 21 for 45, with 230 yards and two touchdowns – does not look very good.
Smith also would have had more completions if his receivers did not drop so many passes. Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and Jamaal Charles all had critical drops that killed possessions for the Chiefs. However, the biggest drop of all was actually on a completed pass.
The Chiefs had the ball in the red zone after a Broncos turnover and were looking to take a 7-3 lead. Smith passed to fullback Anthony Sherman who gained five yards and broke a tackle, but then fumbled the football. The ball was recovered by Denver. Two plays later, Manning threw a 70-yard strike to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas that set the Broncos up for an easy nine yard touchdown. This 14-point swing changed the face of the game completely.
There is not much the Chiefs can do with their personnel to improve on offense going forward this season. The offensive line will continue to be shaky. The wide receivers will continue to be mediocre. Charles, however, will also continue to be one of the most explosive players in the NFL. The Chiefs have weaknesses, but that doesn’t make them a bad team.
To beat the Broncos in two weeks, the Chiefs have to play their best game of the season. They did not do that last night, but still lost by only 10 to a Super Bowl favorite.
The key to winning starts with the defensive line winning their battles against the Broncos offensive line. The Chiefs best pass rushers, Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, must come up big against the Broncos in round two. If they can’t get to Manning, the Chiefs can’t win. It’s that simple.
The Chiefs’ offense has to do just a little bit more. Everyone knows that Chiefs aren’t explosive on offense, but they don’t need to be. They just need to be opportunistic. They were stopped on the goal line three times and were forced to settle for a field goal. Sherman’s fumble was crippling. If the Chiefs converted for touchdowns on each of those opportunities, they would have had a much better chance at winning the ballgame.
The Broncos and Chiefs showdown at Arrowhead will be a very similar game to the one last night. If the Chiefs don’t throw away scoring opportunities and if they hit Manning, they have a good chance of coming out on top.