The 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs host the 8-3 Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have beaten Peyton Manning just one time so if there is such a thing as being due for a win, the Chiefs are due.
There are a lot of things the Chiefs have to do to be successful against the Broncos. I have listed a few of the things that I think are important below. Note that I did not include many keys to the Chiefs defense stopping Peyton Manning. That's because I have no idea how to stop him. The Chiefs just need to hope to limit his opportunities. It's not reasonable to think they can shut him down.
Here's how I envision a winning formula for the Chiefs.
1. Run the ball. A lot.
The Kansas City Chiefs are the fifth ranked rushing offense in the NFL. Their formula for beating another high powered offense, the New England Patriots, was to run the ball and run it a lot. This can not be another game where Knile Davis has five or six snaps like he has the past couple of weeks. He needs to be involved regularly. I don't think I have to mention this because it's obvious but the Chiefs also need a healthy, healthy dose of Jamaal Charles, and they need him for the entire game. The Chiefs can't have another game where Charles has 15 first half rushes and four second half rushes. It needs to be a full commitment to the run game. Running the ball well will lead to...
2. Manageable third downs.
Alex Smith talks about getting themselves set up in third and short instead of third and medium or long. Third and short means the Chiefs can run the ball which, as we noted above, is important. It also opens the possibility for a short pass that on third and short could be a broken tackle away from a big play. (Actually, don't pass it on third and one, Andy. The Chiefs convert 75 percent of third and ones when rushing the ball and 50 percent when passing the ball.)
The most important stat here is that the Chiefs are sixth in the NFL at third down percentage (45). This is a great thing, and converting those third downs leads to ...
3. Control the time of possession.
The best defense against Peyton Manning is not even giving him a shot. Keep him off the field. The Chiefs are 11th in the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball for an average of just over 30 minutes per game. Possess the ball as much as possible and keep it out of Manning's hands. This comes from rushing the ball well and converting third downs.
4. Be aggressive on fourth down.
Andy Reid talks about having faith in his defense and special teams when declining to go for it on fourth and short. In this game he should consider having some faith in his offense. The Chiefs will be faced with a fourth and short situation in this game, and the Chiefs should consider being more aggressive than usual in deciding whether to go for it. I can already see the "You can't punt it there going against Peyton Manning" comments that are to come.
5. Don't get screwed on the deep ball.
The best improvement the Chiefs defense has made this year is not the development of Justin Houston or Dontari Poe. It's the pass defense, which is statistically one of the best in the NFL. The reason for this is that the Chiefs stopped giving up big plays, which was their major downfall last year. Make Manning go on 10 and 11-play drives to score. If he does that consistently then the Broncos deserve to win. Don't give this game away with a couple of blown coverages because we all know that Manning will take advantage of them.
Which keys am I missing? Which ones above aren't that important?