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Rewind: Denver Take Five (Part II)

Posted Dec 6, 2010

The Chiefs found answers to several pre-game questions in a 10-6 victory over Denver

Sunday’s victory was far from perfect and the Chiefs results were mixed in our pre-game “Take Five.” Regardless, the end result was positive and the Chiefs took a major step towards controlling the division.

As always, Kansas City’s response to our original “Take Five” is in bold.

It isn’t often that a rival gets a shot at redemption so quickly. Just three weeks ago the last place Broncos thumped the division-leading Chiefs by 20 points. Denver had built a 35-0 lead at one point in the first half.

This weekend isn’t just about payback, however. Sunday’s rematch represents a critical late-season division contest as the Chiefs continue to chase an invitation to the NFL’s postseason dance. You gotta win to get in…

 Lets “Take Five” for Chiefs/Broncos: Part II.

1)      The Secondary

In the first meeting, Broncos QB Kyle Orton picked apart a battered Chiefs secondary. Three weeks later, Kansas City is still limping in the defensive backfield. Starting left cornerback Brandon Flowers’ status for Sunday is uncertain (hamstring) and safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) was downgraded from probable to questionable on Saturday afternoon.

Regardless of what happens prior to Sunday’s kickoff, reserve defensive backs will play a critical role in corralling a top-five passing attack. Travis Daniels, Javier Arenas and Jackie Bates (out for Sunday) combined with some solid relief work last weekend in Seattle. The Chiefs will need more of the same this weekend.

With a secondary playing at less than full strength, the Chiefs have seen someone step up two Sundays in a row. This week it was Brandon Carr who led the way with a tremendous game. He played every defensive snap for the Chiefs, leading the team with six pass breakups and helping the defense limit Kyle Orton to just nine completions.

Carr also controlled Brandon Lloyd throughout the day. Lloyd entered Sunday with the most receiving yards in the NFL (1,122) and finished with only two catches for 31 yards. That paltry total would lead all Broncos receivers.

Brandon Flowers was healthy enough to make the start opposite Carr and played through most of the game before leaving the fourth quarter with severe cramps. It was a gutsy performance. Travis Daniels would replace Flowers for Denver’s final snaps. Jon McGraw started in place of the injured Kendrick Lewis, with Ricky Price and Javier Arenas also factoring into the DB mix off the bench.

The secondary was locked in on Sunday.

2)      The Secondary, Part II

Speaking of dinged up defensive backs, the Broncos are dealing with a number of injuries in their secondary as well. Veteran safety Brian Dawkins has already been ruled out of this weekend’s game and his backup, Darcel McBath, has been scratched as well. Add in CB Andre Goodman to the inactive list and the Broncos will have four rookies factoring into the mix this Sunday at Arrowhead.

The Chiefs offense begins and ends with the running game, but Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe face a favorable matchup this weekend as well.

Denver’s defensive backs stepped up to the challenge to put the brakes on Cassel and Bowe’s torrid passing pace. Bowe was shut out for the first time in 47 games and Cassel threw less than two touchdowns for the first time since October.

The Chiefs passing game was tested with Bowe being taken out of the mix. Cassel did a nice job of not forcing the football to his top wide receiver and that patience helped him go without an interception for yet another week. Bowe was targeted just three times on the day.

A turnover might have been all it took for Denver to claim victory. Instead, Cassel’s TD/INT ratio widens to 23/4 and the Chiefs division lead increased from one game to two.

3)      All About Pass Rush

When Kyle Orton has time to throw, he’ll pick apart a defense. That’s what happened the last time these two teams met.

The Chiefs not only failed to sack Orton in the first meeting, but Orton was rarely pressured either. What’s been an issue for the Chiefs in the past hasn’t’ been in 2010. Kansas City has a formidable pass rush, but it didn’t show up at INVESCO Field. That can’t happen twice against Orton.

Fort the Broncos, they’re trying to find a way to pressure Matt Cassel .With OLB Elvis Dumervil suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason, Denver has struggled to find sacks. Dumervile led the league with 17.0 sacks last season, but the Broncos have just 16.0 sacks as a team this season.

Javier Arenas’ two-sack day was evidence that the Chiefs put a priority on rushing Orton after Kansas City’s first meeting with the NFL’s passing leader. Blitzing cornerbacks doesn’t always end well against a passing attack like Denver’s, but the Chiefs were able to mix and match their blitz packages throughout the afternoon to keep Orton off-balance.

Tamba Hali added two sacks as well and is the first Chiefs player to reach double-digit sack figures since Jared Allen in 2006.

4)      Teams Play

Special teams play has been an issue for the Chiefs over the past several weeks. One week it’s the coverage units and the next week it’s the protection units that falter. The Chiefs were able to overcome two blocked kicks last weekend in Seattle, but living on the edge in special teams isn’t a place that any division contender wants to be (just ask San Diego).

Denver presents one of the most dangerous special teams returners in the league with WR Eddie Royal. It’s time to see the Chiefs turn in a complete effort form all three phases of the game.

Todd Haley said on Monday that one of his favorite plays of the game was Dustin Colquitt’s punt inside the final 20 seconds. The 59-yarder was clutch and the Chiefs coverage units nearly forced a turnover on the no-yardage return. The kick/cover mix left Denver with just one snap to go 92 yards.

Kansas City’s day left something to be desired from the return units, but it was a winning performance overall from the Chiefs special teamers.

5)      December to Remember

We’ve talked about it all week. For the Chiefs to win the AFC West, they’ll have to re-discover their December dominance at Arrowhead.

Kansas City is a perfect 5-0 at home this season, so the groundwork has been laid. But the Chiefs also haven’t won a December home game since 2006. That’s a massive streak of futility considering that the Chiefs won 18 consecutive December home dates from the mid-1990s and into the early part of the 2000s.

This is the most important stretch of the season with three of the Chiefs remaining five games are at Arrowhead. Giving the crowd something to cheer for early could set the tone for the rest of the day.

The Chiefs move to 6-0 at Arrowhead and 1-0 in December. Who would have thought that the Chiefs would see a win with Denver churning out a rusher of 150 yards and Bowe going without a catch? That Arrowhead mystique looks like its back.

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