View Full Version : Improved 'D' should help Chiefs win in Denver

09-26-2005, 08:46 AM

(Sept. 26, 2005) -- The National Football League makes sure we all get a chance to see some of the best rivalries on Monday Night Football as often as possible during the season.

Even though the Kansas City Chiefs have won only six of their past 30 games in Denver, they are 3-2 against the Broncos on MNF (2-1 in Denver).

So as we break this game down, it really comes down to the home-field advantage question. Last year, the Broncos started their season off with a 34-24 victory at home against the Chiefs, and the Chiefs returned the favor at home with a 45-17 romp. I'm not ready to just cave in to the home-field issue, especially with the strides the Chiefs took in the offseason to improve their defense.

Dick Vermeil, always the master of using statistics to motivate his team, will be sure to tell his players that a 3-0 start over the past two seasons has big significance. Twelve teams got to the 3-0 mark since 2003. All 12 finished with winning records, 10 of the 12 made the playoffs, seven won their division title and three of the four Super Bowl participants started out 3-0. The Chiefs will leave the locker room knowing they can create a two-game lead in the division and be sitting in very good company.

The Broncos were shocked in Week 1 at Miami but rebounded last week with a division victory at home against the Chargers. A second division victory will right the ship for Mike Shanahan. A loss will amplify some of the big questions surrounding this once great franchise.


The Broncos have been based on a rock-solid running game over the past decade. Their running system was so good that Shanahan traded Clinton Portis two offseasons ago and Reuben Droughns last winter, and no one flinched because it was the "system" -- not the players -- that made it happen.

Well, after two weeks this season, the Broncos gained only 84 yards per game on the ground. Over the previous three seasons, the Broncos gained 151 yards per game on the ground. If the Broncos want to have that home-field advantage, they need to find out what happened to that other 67 yards per game they used to generate. The problem they face tonight is a much improved Chiefs defense.

Kansas City went out in free agency last winter and signed Sammy Knight, Patrick Surtain and Kendrell Bell, and then grabbed Derrick Johnson in the first round of the draft.

After two weeks, Johnson leads the Chiefs with 17 tackles and has been described as a much bigger version of Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks. That's mighty high praise for someone unproven, but early signs are clear that he is a terrific player who will change Kansas City's defense.

The new additions on defense have combined for 38 tackles, two sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles. The Chiefs defense is giving up only 3.0 yards per carry, which is 1.7 yards less per carry than the Broncos generated from 2002-04. Something has to give at Invesco Field tonight.

When Denver takes to the air, the staple of their passing game is the bootleg pass attack off play-action. If the Denver running game is more like the 2005 version than the years before, then there will be too much pressure on Jake Plummer.

With more talent on his defensive unit, Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been inclined to blitz more and be disruptive to opposing offenses. Cunningham will bring pressure from the outside, especially from his left side, to pull up Plummer when he tries to get outside and use his athletic ability to make plays.

I expect at least one sack and a half-dozen pressures from linebacker Johnson in his first big national TV game.


Kansas City has been an offensive machine that has put up points like no other team in the NFL since 2002. The Chiefs have scored 29.9 points per game over the past three seasons. The closest team has been the Colts with 27.5. Kansas City has generated 167 touchdowns since 2002 while the Broncos have recorded 121. Kansas City has 50 points in two games, which is a bit off its usual pace, but it's nothing to worry about if you are a Chiefs fan.

Trent Green has yet to throw a touchdown pass, which is hard to believe, but it is the two-headed monster in the running game that is stealing all of the attention. Priest Holmes (41 carries for 160 yards) and Larry Johnson (18 for 151) are churning up the yards and the touchdowns (five).

With two solid runners, the Chiefs have an answer for the altitude issues that fatigue players who come to Invesco Field. And the running attack will get a big boost if left tackle Willie Roaf (hamstring), a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, returns to the lineup.

Denver did a good job of building up its depth in the defensive line this offseason. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer now can rotate eight linemen and keep his players fresh, which will be necessary against the fast-paced Chiefs attack. The Broncos linebackers can run and they will have to keep Johnson and Holmes contained. Denver ranks 22nd in rushing defense this season.

The real matchup issue for the Broncos linebackers is in the passing game. Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez needs special attention every play of the game. The Broncos will use a combination of a linebacker and safety most of the time, but could switch to their best cornerback, Champ Bailey, down in the red zone.

I expect Gonzalez to have a big night with upward of seven or eight receptions and a touchdown before this game is over. Green, who threw 27 touchdown passes last season, is not going another week without one. The Chiefs will look to attack the safeties early and often tonight.


1. Denver has won 15 of its past 19 home games.

2. Vermeil is 0-5 in games he has coached in Denver, including losses in each of the past four seasons.

3. Bailey has caused three turnovers in two games this year.

4. In the four Chiefs-Broncos games over the past two seasons, these teams have scored an average of nearly 60 points per game combined.

5. Holmes is the only running back since 2002 to come into Invesco and rush for more than 100 yards. The Chiefs lost both games anyway.

6. The Chiefs have outscored opponents 21-0 in the first quarter this season.

7. The Broncos are 2-for-16 on third-down conversions of 6 yards or more.

8. In his past five games against Denver, Green has recorded eight touchdown passes against two interceptions


The Chiefs have a big challenge in front of them, but Vermeil has put enough new players on defense that he has an excellent chance to get his first victory in Denver. Shanahan believes he has a playoff-caliber team.

With Mike Anderson ready to carry the ball right at defensive tackle Junior Siavii, who will play for the injured Ryan Sims, the game will be close for the first half.

Green to Gonzalez, Holmes out on short passes against the Broncos linebackers, and the Chiefs red-zone offense will be too much for the Broncos. I like the Chiefs to win a high-scoring game by a late field goal.

09-26-2005, 09:32 AM
Hmmm, not a bad article but he needs to get some facts straight. Browning is replacing Sims, not Siavii. And this is not Derrick Johnson's first big national TV game. That was last week on Sunday Night Football.