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Where It Turned

Posted Nov 11, 2010

Last year's meeting in Denver gave the Chiefs a boost of momentum for 2010; this year's visits sets the stage for the second half of the season

Who would have thought that, in of all places, Kansas City would find their identity in Denver?

INVESCO Field has historically been a miserable place for the Chiefs. Last year’s 44-24 romp of Denver was Kansas City’s first victory at INVESCO since the building opened in 2001. Not only did that game give the Chiefs a momentum boost heading into a critical offseason pinned for development, but it also offered a blueprint for playing successful football in 2010.  

Everything that the Chiefs have thrived upon this season appeared in last year’s season finale at Denver. From Jamaal Charles’ record-setting rushing performance to Derrick Johnson’s two interception returns for touchdowns; Kansas City’s run game and timely defensive stops have been critical to a first half of 2010 that has the Chiefs sitting atop the division.

It’s something that Denver head coach Josh McDaniels has seen carry over from last year’s meeting as well.

“I think they were well on their way to really building what they wanted as a football team to be as the year went on last year,” McDaniels said via conference call. “I think that anybody who watched them last season knew that they were continuing to make strides and get better. Now they’ve really created an identity for themselves.”

Nearly 10 months later, the winning recipe that the Chiefs found in Denver continues to hold strong. The tape from January is one that the Broncos have had all offseason to review. Coming fresh off a bye weekend, the Chiefs are expecting to see more than just a few twists in Denver’s approach to the game this Sunday.

“It will be interesting to see how they approach us,” QB Matt Cassel said. “We know that we have been running the ball well and (Oakland did) a good job (defending) last week. We knew going in that they had a big physical front that was going to try and challenge us physically. They did a good job stopping the run all day, that just puts the balance on us, the quarterback and the receivers to go out and make plays and take advantage of those one-on-one opportunities on the outside.”

Oakland found a way to stall the Chiefs run game despite missing All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha to help defend against the pass. Stacking the box with a zero safety look proved to be effective and Denver’s 31st ranked rushing defense surely took notice.

“I think that teams have tried to do that,” Cassel said. “Buffalo was a good example as well, they tried to stack the box and play a lot of man coverage on the outside and we were able to get a few big runs here and there.

“In terms of last week, they have great personnel and they have a lot of speed at the linebacker position and their front four was probably the most physical front four that we will play all year. They just did a good job but we have to continue to try and run the ball because that is something we do well.”

Personnel-wise, the Broncos haven’t shown to be on par with the Raiders front seven. Denver badly misses the services of Pro Bowl OLB Elvis Dumervil who was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle in the preseason. But the Raiders were able to do something that no other team has done to the Chiefs in 2010 and it’s likely to inspire plenty of copy-cat strategies until Kansas City can provide a counter.

“You always see some (zero looks) but that’s clearly the most we’ve seen, but I’m also not surprised that it came from the Raiders,” Chiefs Coach Todd Haley said. “That’s been something, whether coach (John) Marshall, the Raiders in general, they’ve got an M.O. and they play by it and you generally see more out of them than everybody else. That being said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team have success against us and try to do some of the things that they were doing. That’s part of the deal.”

With two weeks to prepare, the Broncos have had the opportunity to make a number of adjustments for Sunday’s game. Denver has already shown both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive looks this season and McDaniels is a former understudy of Kansas City’s coordinators. He’s also very familiar with Cassel, having served as his position coach in New England.

All of those factors point to the Broncos adapting their game plan for Sunday.

“They’ve got a good coaching staff that will have these guys ready to go and they’re a game plan group, as much of a game plan group as we’ll see that will search out, look for our weaknesses and try to attack them in all areas,” Haley said. “We’ve got to be ready for anything.”

Many believe that Denver was the place where Kansas City’s start to 2010 began. This year’s meeting at INVESCO represents a critical day in setting the stage for the second half of 2010.

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