Broncos Team Journalist Lucas Polglaze and Chiefs Team Journalist Seth Keysor debate on the Chiefs' chances of stopping the Broncos reign of terror.
The Denver Broncos have been a steamroller for the first 3 weeks. An unstoppable juggernaut crushing everything in their path. They've scored well over 30 points in every game. Peyton Manning is playing arguably the best football of his life. Not a single game has been in doubt by the end of the 3rd quarter.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the surprises around the league (or not really, if you consider that most people picked the Chiefs as a "sleeper"). At 3-0, their record matches the Broncos. They crushed Jacksonville, narrowly beat the Cowboys, and became the first team to slow down Chip Kelly's offense this year. While the Denver offense has impressed, it's the defense in Kansas City that's attracting all the attention, with Bob Sutton's group having surrendered only 32 total points through 3 games.
Of course, none of that matters in the face of the dominant power that is the Broncos offense, right? I'm crazy to think the Chiefs could ever beat such a dominant team... right? As always, when I have questions like this I go to Lucas Polglaze, Broncos Team Journalist for Pro Football Spot and one heckuva model American.
Lucas, I think the Chiefs have a chance not only to beat the Broncos once this season, but sweep them. What do you have to say to that? And what has Denver been doing to be so awesome this year?
Well over 30? Make that a full 42.3, well over 40! It's a full 10 points more than the next greatest. They lead the league in offensive yards too. Peyton Manning is dominant. Watch his game against the Raiders and you'll find that almost instantaneously. He is picking apart defenses and making sure everything gets where it needs to be. He has thrown 12 TDs, an NFL record through 3 games. And all that with 0 interceptions. He threw 37 passes against the Raiders with 32 completions. But all 5 incomplete passes hit his WRs in the hands.
The fact is, this offense is going to be extremely difficult to stop. Who do you double cover? Starters Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas are all extremely dangerous in single coverage. I repeat, who do you double? Because no matter who you double, someone will be open. And if you only put 6 in the box, the Broncos will run. Knowshon Moreno has been effective this year, with 34 carries for 160 yards and 2 TDs in a multiple back system.
OK. I've said all that about the offense. But the defense has been playing lights-out too. They lead the league in rushing yards allowed per game, with a paltry 43.3. And they've played Ray Rice and Darren McFadden, among others.
Their young players have stepped up. Starting safety Duke Ihenacho has been among the most intimidating players on the field. They've had 8 sacks through three games.
Oh, and all this has been without Von Miller or Champ Bailey.
I think the Chiefs are a great team, don't get me wrong. But what makes you think they can stand up to the dominating Denver Broncos?
The same way they held a good offensive team in the Cowboys and the "unstoppable" Eagles to 16 points each... by CREATING the mismatches, rather than responding to them.
But before I get into all that... you talked a lot about the Broncos offense. And I agree, it's scary. Let me throw some numbers at you, though.
15- That's the number of sacks the Chiefs have this year, 1st in the league.
5.8- Yards allowed per pass play by the Chiefs, 3rd in the league
49- Hurries of the quarterback by the Chiefs defense. In 3 games.
8- Hits on the quarterback by the Chiefs defense.
56.7%- The percentage of passing plays against us that have resulted in a sack, hit, hurry, or batted pass.
63.1- Passer rating allowed per game by the Chiefs defense.
And remember, the whole, "well, it was just Jacksonville" argument doesn't apply anymore. The Eagles scored 30 and 33 points in their other two games. The Cowboys scored 36 and 31. Against us? 16 each.
These are offenses with playmakers that are rolling over other defenses... but not the Chiefs. That defense is legit. Tell me that doesn't scare you a little.
The Chiefs defense is legit, no doubt. One of the best in the NFL. It hasn't really stopped the run, which is a huge concern. However, the Broncos don't really have a run game, so you've dodged a bullet right there.
However, don't say that the Eagles/Cowboys offenses are that legit. The Cowboys have played the Giants (worst defense in the league) and the Rams. The Eagles have played the Redskins (OK, actually the worst defense in the league) and the Chargers. On paper these two offenses are good but they have definitely benefited from some very bad defenses in their schedule.
The Chiefs defense is looking excellent, yes. But give me a call when they face the real offensive class of the league. And that won't be for some time.
Their next games before facing the Broncos are Giants, Titans, Oakland, Houston (best of this bunch), Cleveland and Buffalo. Please excuse me while I go laugh uncontrollably.
OK, I'm back. That defense is great. But it hasn't faced anybody elite and won't until it faces the Broncos. The only distinctly solid offenses I see on the Chiefs schedule are the Texans, Broncos (twice) and Colts. Maybe the Chargers but I don't trust Rivers.
Don't get me wrong, the Chiefs have a great defense. But it hasn't faced anybody and it won't for some time. What about them makes you so sure that they'll do well against the Broncos?
Whoa now... you lost me for a second. Hasn't stopped the run? Feel free to take a look at what DeMarco Murray did against our run D. Go ahead, I'll wait...
You found it? 12 carries. 25 yards. He got completely and utterly shut down. Same with the Jacksonville run game the week prior (when MJD was healthy, mind you).
You're looking at total stats and saying, "hey, the Chiefs haven't done well against the run!" The problem is 95 of the yards the Chiefs have given up were to Mike Vick doing Mike Vick things (2 runs that ended up the vast majority of that, really). And the majority of what's left was Shady McCoy doing Shady McCoy things. Go back and watch the tape. besides one long run, McCoy's gains were made on runs where there was nowhere to go and he just made something happen. Besides Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson, no other back in the league makes those runs. And certainly not Moreno.
And can't the same argument be thrown back at you guys? The only thing approaching a legitimate defense the Broncos have faced was the Ravens. And if I recall, they were actually doing pretty well against your offense until they started panic-blitzing and played RIGHT INTO what Peyton Manning wants teams to do; send 5 guys so he can recognize the blitz and pick it apart.
Also, it seems like you want to have it both ways with defenses. You claim your defense has played well... but you've played the Ravens (average offense), the Giants (blech this year), and the Raiders (blech). None of those offenses is as good as the Cowboys or the Eagles, and it's really not all that close. So why does your defense get the "they're playing great!" label but with our defense (which has held better offenses to fewer points) it's, "yeah well, let's wait and see?"
If your defense has been "lights out," (as you put it), then ours has been "lights out PLUS." You can't get around that conclusion. We've played better offenses and shut them down.
Beyond that, I'd argue our defense is tailor-made to give your offense problems. What do you plan to do about Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, for starters?
Well, even if McCoy had "nowhere to go", he still made something happen. That doesn't signal excellent run defense to me. And DeMarco Murray is hardly All Pro Ray Rice. But that's all semantics and you're right that the outlier doesn't signify a trend. The fact is, I'd take your schedule to this point over ours.
Most of the Broncos' opponents scored on garbage time points, when the game was too far out of hand for the opponent to have a shot at coming back. They had massive fourth-quarter leads: 25 points against the Ravens, 22 points against the Giants and 23 points against the Ravens.
The Broncos had effectively won games by the second half. They allowed a majority of both yards and points by the second half. The game was over and so the defensive play was relaxed. The Chiefs, however, had only one true blowout. They were in the others until the last minute and had to fight for every play. That looks a lot better statistically than the Denver bend-don't-break scheme.
The Broncos offense is the best in the league. You can argue around that all you want, but there's simply no stopping it. The Ravens absolutely did overblitz, but there's no discounting the fact that the Denver offense was still rolling in the first half.
Houston and Hali can be difficult. But if there's any QB who can improve his offensive line, it's Peyton Manning. And with multiple receivers getting open quickly, that release time has come way down.
Manning is the easy MVP of the league so far. 12 TDs, 0 INTs. Those 12 TDs are a record for the first three games of a season, in case you're forgetting. He has a ridiculous 73% completion percentage and is on pace to throw for 5984.
This offense is, as Sports Illustrated described it, Fantasy Meets Reality.
What makes you think your offense will be able to hang with our offense?
The "garbage time" argument goes both ways. Your defense knew exactly what was coming. Which is the only reason you've been putting pressure on quarterbacks. Your D is able to pin their ears back and rush the passer right away. When they weren't able to rule out the run (again, look to the 1st half against the only decent team you've played), your D gave up 17 points in a half to a "meh" offense.
And "rolling?" Your offense was "rolling" in that 1st half? Your first 3 possessions ended in punts. You scored 14 points. You were LOSING. Please, tell me how your offense was "rolling." It was looking OK. But nothing even close to what it's been. The Ravens were winning 17-14 and your offense had punted on 4 of its 6 meaningful possessions. Make no mistake, your offense was looking distinctly mortal until Baltimore panicked.
But let's talk about our defense against your offense. The problem you're going to be presented with is a matter of numbers. You talk about Demaryius Thomas, Welker, Decker, and Julius Thomas as an unstoppable group. That may very well be. But how on earth are you going to send all of them out on routes at once?
Before you say, "oh, well we'll use Moreno (who is a very good blocker) to help out," let me stop you and let you know that he's not gonna be enough.
Dontari Poe, our NT, is playing phenomenal football. Through 3 games he's got 4 sacks, 3 hurries 1 hit, and 2 batted passes. And those numbers drastically understate the impact he's had. Go back and watch the film on any of our games. When he wasn't double teamed, he wreaked havoc. He absolutely demanded a double team. And please, don't say "our C will handle him alone." Just don't. That's what the Cowboys fans said about their rookie C (who has been DOMINANT except the week he played Poe). That's what the Eagles said about their solid vet Jason Kelce. It's not going to happen.
So you double Poe, fine. That's 2 blockers down. Of course, that leaves your LT blocking Tamba Hali one-on-one. Are you feeling nearly as comfortable with that as you were a week ago? I didn't think so. Especially with him not able to count on consistent help from the LG. Hali has been taking a back seat to Houston in the press, but he's been disrupting the passer nearly as much (with an NFL-leading 16 hurries). So you either let Manning get hit repeatedly, or you send Moreno to that side to help block. 2 more blockers down.
And now you're left with 2 guys blocking Tyson Jackson (or Mike DeVito) and Justin "destroyer of worlds" Houston. Houston, as detailed here, has been consistently winning his one-on-one matchups with guards consistently, collapsing the pocket. Same with DeVito. And one tackle on Houston? C'mon, man. That's insulting.
So you flip Moreno to help with Houston. Now Tamba is eating Manning's helmet. So you stop doubling Poe to help with Hali. Then Poe proceeds storm through and hits Manning withing 1.5 seconds of the ball being snapped. So you go back to doubling Poe. In the meantime, TJax is shoving your RG backward into Manning's lap. Rinse, repeat.
You can talk about your line, and it's definitely solid. But that doesn't matter when you're talking about Poe, Hali, and Houston. They require entirely too much attention. And so you need to keep another blocker back. Except now... you've got three receivers running routes against SEVEN defenders. Defenders that, I might add, play press coverage to prevent those "quick throws" that Manning loves to use to beat the blitz.
As I said, it's a numbers game. You can't block Tamba alone. Or Poe. Or Houston. So to protect Manning, you have to keep a TE and a RB blocking. Which makes coverage easier. Which leads to coverage sacks and poor decisions, even from great quarterbacks.
This is the blueprint to beat your offense. How do I know that? Because we've seen it done before, to a better offense than the one you guys are sporting. Remember the 2007 Patriots? They brought everything to the table you've got. Great receivers, great QB, solid line, solid running game... and absolutely unstoppable offense that rolled over everyone and never came close to losing.
Until they played the Giants. Because the Giants, unlike every other team in the league, could bring the heat with just 4 guys rushing the passer. You know how that story ended.
That got long, but I needed to really paint you a picture there. Our defense can slow down your offense because we're uniquely gifted to rush Manning without having to ever, ever blitz. And we also happen to sport one of the few CBs in the game big enough and physical enough to deal with Demaryius Thomas (Sean Smith, who has been lights out), as well as one of the few CBs in the league quick enough and SMART enough to hang with Welker (you know who). We have a safety group that shut down Jason Witten (Eric Berry is allowing a QB rating of 15.3 when throwing at). We're unique, and we're perhaps the only defense in the NFL built to match up against what you do. Just like the 2007 Giants.
The offense wasn't exactly looking mortal in that Ravens game. We were looking solidly average. The fact is though, when we got going, average went out the window. And we haven't stopped going ever since.
Well, you paint a lovely picture there. All it would need to have to be perfect is some illustrations.
I see what you're saying. But you're forgetting that Manning is by far the best in the game at identifying and stopping a blitz. I've seen him multiple times with the right playcall and never seen him come up with a bad one. And Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase has been consistently setting up this team well to execute against the holes of the defense.
You've got a nice little Rocky or Rudy story going there, the little defense that could. But you're evading my question, how can your offense score on the defense?
Von Miller will be back. And he will be eating greedy on Eric Fisher, who has been bad at RT. Robert Ayers has three sacks to his credit this year. He and Shaun Phillips will be able to get after Alex Smith from the other side.
OK, run the ball? Ehhhhh. Wrong answer, but thanks for playing. Terrance Knighton and Kevin Vickerson, 663 pounds of pure man, will be blocking the middle. No running on this defense.
Wesley Woodyard is having another Pro Bowl-worthy season. He and Danny Trevathan have been lights-out on coverage and run stopping for this team, combining for 45 tackles.
OK, let's throw the ball...Let me put it this way...our fifth-string CB had a great night against the Raiders.
Champ Bailey will be back. DRC has been shutting down people. Chris Harris is the most underrated corner in the league. Tony "Stickyman" Carter is possibly the best 4th corner in the league. He could start for most teams. Kayvon Webster, the rookie, held up in extended playing time against the Raiders. He's more of a hybrid player, with CB cover skills but S hitting power.
Rahim Moore? Yeah, I know what you're thinking. But that's not what opposing QBs have discovered. He and Duke Ihenacho (who intimidates players by the simple virtue of his name) have been playing as one of the best S duos in the league.
And combine all that with spectacular DC Jack Del Rio. Del Rio has been generating pressure from blitzes and stunts and has been confusing offenses all season long.
I repeat, what makes you think this Chiefs offense can score on this defense and stay in pace with the Manning-led offense?
Here's where you're getting your signals crossed...
But you're forgetting that Manning is by far the best in the game at identifying and stopping a blitz.
That's the key for the Chiefs. The don't NEED to blitz. There isn't an "open area" for Manning to pick apart, because they won't need to send extra guys to create pressure.
Back to your defense. First of all, you're assuming Von Miller will be back. Let's just see if he can go a full month without doing something stupid before we cross that bridge, shall we?
As far as the rest, again, you've gotten to watch your defense play against one decent offense in 3 games. That's it. And that offense put up 17 on you guys in one half of play. The Ravens offense isn't as good as the Eagles or the Cowboys... yet I'm supposed to be impressed you somehow "held" them to 27 points? And at the same time, you claim OUR defense has something to prove?
It's a double standard. You haven't played a single offense that frightens anyone. And STILL every one of them has gone over 20 on you.
You want me to take garbage time into account with those scores, fine. But then you need to take garbage time into account with those rushing yard stats. I mean, your pass defense is 30th in the league in yards given up per game. Should I take from that your pass defense sucks? And if you say no, then you CAN'T say that the rush yards per game automatically shows your run defense is awesome. Can't have it both ways.
Your defense is an unknown right now. That's the best that can be said for it. Well, maybe not "the best." we can say it doesn't suck. Beyond that, I'm afraid I'm going to need to see more than doing OK (if that) against the Giants and the Raiders.
Let's put it another way... The Raiders scored more points against you than they have against any other team this year. The Giants got shut out by the Panthers but put up 23 on you. The Ravens could only score 14 on the Bronws but put up 27 against you (and 17 in the 1st half).
In short, your D hasn't proven anything more than they're capable of not completely blowing it when the offense is clicking. When your offense wasn't dominating, your D was giving up 17 in a half. So forgive me for making my best "unimpressed" face.
Our offense, while it hasn't been stellar, is capable of doing what needs to be done. We've got at least as many playmakers as the Ravens offense, and I saw them do just fine against that "wall" of a defense. I believe all we'll need is 24-31 to get it done (go ahead and laugh... the Eagles fans did, too). And if the Ravens can throw 17 on you in a half, we can certainly do the same.
Also... we've got two secret(ish) weapon going for us on offense: the bye week and Arrowhead. When we play you the first time we'll be coming off a bye week. Go ahead and check out Andy Reid's record after the bye and after Thursday Night games (spoiler alert: it's 17-2). When he's got extra time to prepare, no one is better in the NFL. It's a HUGE edge for us that we face you after the bye that first game. After that? It's Arrowhead. And not the cold, dead Arrowhead of recent years when there was nothing to play for. But a hungry Arrowhead crowd salivating at the thought of sweeping the hated Broncos. If you guys lose that first game (and Andy Reid's history says there's a good chance), you're in trouble for the second.
All right, here's your chance to bring it home. In 250 words or less, tell me why the Broncos will sweep the Chiefs this year.
Alright, 250 words.
The fact remains, I’m simply not convinced that the Chiefs will be able to stop the Broncos’ offense. It’s by far the best in the league and is on pace to rank among the best of all-time. The Broncos have put up an average of 42.3 points per game, by far the best in the league. For comparison, the record is 589 points (translating to 37 points per game), set by the 2007 Patriots (alright, alright).
The Chiefs D will have to get pressure. But the Broncos have one of the best coaching staffs in the league and have the best offense. It may take them a while to get going but they will be able to do what they want.
23.6 points per game is all the Kansas City offense has mustered. And they will need all that and more against this defense. Von will be back. And this defense will be ready to fight.
This is all not to mention our wildcard. Trindon Holliday. With these matchups, it may well come down to special teams. He is undefeated through his career and has put up an unbelievable 5 returns for TDs in his young professional tenure.
It’s possible the Broncos may drop a game to the Chiefs, even likely. But a season sweep? The Chiefs are talented, but they can’t hang with the Broncos.
Fair enough. That offense is scary. And I have to admit that Von Miller brings that defense up a notch (and not a small one).
I might rue the day I say this, but Trindon Holliday doesn't scare me. Our return coverage has been exceptional and the elder Colquitt is the best in the league at pinning teams back and not allowing returns.
All that said, you're absolutely right that the Chief's offense will need to be better to beat the Broncos. This is where I trust Andy Reid to do the things necessary to improve the offense (getting our TEs healthy will be a start). And at the end of the day, that's the last advantage I believe the Chiefs go into this matchup with. I take Reid over Fox every time.
I genuinely believe our defense is uniquely suited to give your offense problems with the pass rush, and I believe Bob Sutton will be (should be) poring over tape of Romeo Crennel against Manning (as RAC, for all his faults, is probably the most successful defensive coach of all time against Manning). When he does, he'll see the same thing I see; the key to winning against PFM is to get pressure with 4 and drop 7, all the while threatening blitz to force Manning to audible extra protection in the pocket.
I think our defense is up to the challenge. And although I have a hard time ever, ever, ever, EVER rooting for the Broncos to win, I can't help but hope that somehow both our teams go into that matchup without a loss. Highly doubtful? Absolutely. But... how ridiculously awesome would that be?
As always, thanks to Lucas for participating in these very enlightening debates. All Denver Broncos fans should follow him on the Twitter: @mhsradio. And if you so desire (and don't want the terrorists to win), follow me as well @RealMNChiefsfan.