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Rewind: Denver Take Five

Posted Nov 15, 2010

Reviewing five from Denver pregame

It’s time to rewind our pre-game Take Five from Denver. It obviously wasn’t pretty. Let’s take a look…

In essence, Sunday represents Custer’s Last Stand for the Denver Broncos. At 2-6, the Broncos are all but eliminated from postseason play, but a win over the Chiefs would push Denver’s division record to .500 and help make that dimming postseason light just a tiny bit brighter. It would also push the division-leading Chiefs off the top for the first time of 2010.

With respected veterans like Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey keeping the Broncos locker room hungry, INVESCO Field will likely make for a tough place to play once again on Sunday. It’s a building that Kansas City has won in just one time since the structure came into existence in 2001.

Let’s “Take Five” for today’s game in Denver…

1) Pressure on Orton

If Broncos QB Kyle Orton doesn’t have to move around in the pocket, he’ll sit back and pick defenses apart. Denver boasts a cast of receivers that can match up against nearly any secondary in the league. WR Jabar Gaffney has a knack for finding the soft spots in zones and Brandon Lloyd leads the league in receiving yards.

 Keeping Orton on the run will alleviate pressure on the Kansas City secondary. It’s particularly important with both Kendrick Lewis (hamstring) and Jon McGraw (knee/head) nursing injuries. Practice squad safety Ricky Price was promoted to the 53-man roster yesterday to add reinforcement to the Chiefs ailing back line should Lewis and/or McGraw not be able to play.

Neither Lewis nor McGraw were able to play and the Chiefs secondary got picked apart by Orton for 4 TD passes and Tim Tebow would add a 5th. But would it have mattered even if the Chiefs had their secondary at full capacity?

Orton wasn’t pressured a single time on Sunday. The Chiefs didn’t record any sacks or force any hurries and Orton rarely had to leave the pocket. Pressuring Orton was a pre-game focus point for the Chiefs and they didn’t come close to meeting that goal. Nine different Broncos caught a pass on Sunday with Gaffney and Lloyd combining to post nine catches for 147 yards with three TDs.

2) Control the Line of Scrimmage

Denver has been a one-dimensional offense thus far in 2010. The running game has been non-existent for the Donkeys in outputting just 67.3 yard per contest, but Denver has also had to deal with numerous injuries at running back and along the offensive line. Many of those missing parts are finally ready to return and RB Knowshon Moreno appears ready to carry the football 20 times a game if needed.

Stopping Denver’s run from the get-go will likely lead the pass-happy Broncos to abandon the thought resurrecting their run game on Sunday. When Moreno carries the football 15 times or fewer, Denver is 2-9 under Josh McDaniels.

The line of scrimmage was never controlled on either side of the football and Denver’s anemic rushing offense more than doubled its seasonal average. Moreno led the way with 22 carries for 106 yards (notice he eclipsed 15 carries) and the Broncos finished with 4.9 yards per carry on 31 attempts. Even with the 153-yard performance, Denver was unable to pull out of the NFL rushing cellar (their 67.3 yards per game average was that low).

Offensively, the Chiefs are still the league’s top-ranked rushing offense, but it surely didn’t show on Sunday. The NFL’s 32nd ranked rushing offense outrushed the 1st ranked unit 153-51.

3) Eliminate Critical Errors

Cue the 80’s music, Kansas City became a chameleon last weekend in Oakland.  Going up against the league’s most penalized football team, the Chiefs nearly out-dueled the Raiders in a penalty-for-penalty fight. There’s no reason to hamper on the critical effects of the flags; they took multiple points of the scoreboard and kept Kansas City from extending a commanding lead on the rest of the division.

Short and sweet, the Chiefs must get back to being the Chiefs this weekend.

The Chiefs weren’t mistake-free in the penalty category by any means, but flags didn’t factor into the final score.

On a side note, the NFL needs to evaluate this game before a replay situation like the one on Sunday decides a football game.

An “inoperable” replay machine in Denver revealed a huge loophole in the NFL’s replay/challenge system. The Chiefs were unable to challenge a play that they wanted to challenge because of faulty equipment, but Denver was later able to successfully challenge two plays in the second half.

Mike Florio and Bob Costas reviewed the situation here last night on Football Night in America.

4) Get Out Early

Running teams are at their best when playing with a lead; especially on the road. Even with LB DJ Williams in the lineup, Denver has been among the worst run-stopping defenses in the league (31st in the league at 154.6 ypg.). With the Pro Bowler on the bench to start Sunday’s game the Broncos will be working against the grain even more.

Last Sunday, Kansas City did a nice job of getting out in front of Oakland early in the game and it took an uncharacteristically high amount of self-inflicted miscues to allow the Raiders back into the contest. Chances are, lightning won’t strike twice if the Chiefs can build an early lead.

We didn’t have to worry about lighting striking twice in this one. Things looked bleak when the Broncos built a 21-0 lead within the first 15 minutes of play. When that lead became 35-0, the Chiefs were looking at having to stage a comeback that rivaled the Bills/Oilers playoff game of 1993.

Denver faced just one third-down scenario during their 21-point first quarter run and it was a third-and-one at that. Kansas City definitely wasn’t the team that got out early.

5) Win On Special Teams

Jacoby Ford’s 94-yard kickoff return TD that opened the second half last weekend was a momentum-changer for the Raiders. It was also the lead example of a changing climate for the Chiefs special teams units.

What started off the season as a strength for Kansas City has become a weakness in recent weeks. The Chiefs have been missing on a number of their special teams goals and, while the kicking game has remained strong, the return units have come up short. Big yardage returns have come in chunks against the Chiefs and Kansas City’s return average has been minimal.

The Chiefs don’t necessarily need a big play on special teams this weekend. They just need consistency.

Todd Haley said after the game that he felt the Chiefs lost in all three phases of play. While there weren’t any head-turning special teams plays or mistakes, Kansas City’s returners remained anonymous and the kickoff coverage unit allowed Demaryius Thoams to break a return for 38 yards.

The bright spot on special teams was Eric Berry’s 87-yard return after Matt Prater’s 58-yard field goal try fell short. The Chiefs would get a field goal out of the return, but it looked as if Berry could have had six if he’d kept his route headed towards the sideline.

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