In particular, the Kansas City defense is hoping to bounce back after giving up 27 points and 431 total yards. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo says the key to a better result in Week 14 will be how his defense weathers the early storm.
“We always talk about when we go into an opponent’s stadium,” Spagnuolo explained to reporters on Thursday. “From a defensive standpoint, there’s a surge early. It’s the crowd. It’s the excitement. You know the players on the opposing team [are] home; there’s some energy there.
“We’re always talking about having to survive that — and then thrive in it. If you don’t do that early, it can make it really tough as you go. Again, I’ve talked about this before. But the first and last series of each half — to us — are four of the most important series in the game.”
The Broncos — now occupying last place in the division with a 3-9 record — are an opponent that the first-place Chiefs could overlook. Kansas City also holds a 13-game winning streak against Denver — something that will be mentioned a lot between now and Sunday’s game. But the coordinator has no interest in any of that.
“It’s always the next game,” said Spagnuolo. “There’s nothing that happened in the 13 prior games that are going to help us in this one. It’s different people. So I don’t put too much thought into it.”
New to the team this season, Chiefs safety Justin Reid feels the same way.
“What we’ve done in the past has zero impact on what’s going to happen on Sunday,” he noted. “We’re still going to have to go out and play good football to go get a win.”
One big difference in this year’s Denver team is the presence of quarterback Russell Wilson. Although the Super Bowl-winning quarterback brought high expectations when he was traded to the Broncos in March, the offense has struggled immensely, ranking at the bottom of the league in a number of offensive categories — including last place in total touchdowns scored (14).
Still, experienced players like Reid know not to underestimate a player like Wilson.
“They’re only a couple plays away in every game that they’ve been in,” observed Justin Reid. “Russell is a Super Bowl champion. He has all the tools. He has all the talent.
“They’re right there. Despite their record, they’re not a team to be taken lightly. We’re going to have to bring it — and play good football — when we play.”
One thing that is working for Denver’s offense is the deep pass; Wilson is still effective at threatening defenses over the top. He ranks tenth in the league in completed passes of 20 yards or more — and eighth in passes of 40 or more yards. The Chiefs know that they will have to stop that part of the Broncos’ passing game.
“Russell Wilson loves the deep ball,” noted the veteran safety. “[He] really throws it high. A lot of those plays hit the receiver’s hands — and if it ends up being a catch, the whole game goes in a different direction. “
Spagnuolo agrees that the Broncos represent a threat.
“I think there’s enough really good plays on there for us to be concerned about another quarterback that can play really good,” he said. “I think he’s really good at throwing the deep ball; I know he wants to throw it.
“I mean, it’s something we’ve got to be concerned about. It’s something we can’t allow. When we limit explosive pass plays, usually [our] points allowed turns out pretty good. We’ve got a great deal of respect for the player that we know [Wilson] is.”
The emphasis on stopping the deep pass should also give the Kansas City defense plenty of opportunities to create turnovers — which have been limited up to this point; the defense has secured only 12 this season. As a team, the Chiefs’ turnover differential is minus four, which is the league’s sixth-worst mark.
But Justin Reid believes the best is yet to come.
“When they come, they come in bunches,” said Reid. “Hopefully, we just saved them all for this home stretch here in December, January and February.”