In the first of two huge showdowns between AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 on Sunday night. It was the best offense opposite the best defense and a chance for the Chiefs to show they were for real. The Broncos held their home field and the Chiefs will try to do the same at Arrowhead Stadium in two weeks.
As far as initial reactions go, here are two reasons why the Broncos won.
1. The offensive line kept Peyton Manning clean…
…like, really clean. He was not knocked down or sacked all night. They faced the best pass rushers in the NFL in Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dontari Poe. They were up to the task, and I sure hope Manning took tackles Chris Clark and Orlando Franklin out for a nice breakfast this morning, because they did some serious work last night on the edges.
I’m not even sure if Manning’s uniform sustained a dirt mark or a grass stain. If he were a college kid who needed to do laundry but had been putting it off for over a month, he could wear that same outfit to his 9 AM class tomorrow and nobody would know the difference.
2. The speed of the Denver defense
The Chiefs notoriously do not stretch the field on offense. Their big plays come from putting the ball in the hands of their playmakers, Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, and letting them go to work. These plays often come in the form of screen passes and counter plays. Even if the Broncos did not do a perfect job of staying home, their players had the speed to make up for it and prevent those guys from getting to the edge. Charles only had one big gain on a counter play. McCluster had a nice gain down in the red zone, but otherwise these two did minimal damage. For all of the flaws this defense has shown this season, they have a lot of speedy defenders and it went a long way towards Sunday night’s win.
Of note was a key play by Danny Trevathan: he covered a ton of ground to smack the already-wrapped up Anthony Sherman to force the only KC turnover of the game. We should also tip our caps to the wheels of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as he was left on an island in more than one instant and broke up what could have been key pick-ups for the Chiefs. Finally, any talk of last night’s game must include the veteran Shaun Phillips, who was all over the field and was the only member of the defense to pressure Alex Smith on multiple occasions.
The Broncos just needed their above-average defense to win enough individual battles to keep the below-average Chiefs offense at bay. They did last night, and they showed that their team speed on that side of the ball makes them a tough match-up for Kansas City and their west coast offense.