So there were many bad problems to discuss before we needed to bring up the Chiefs’ defense.
The Broncos totaled only 240 yards — and had been held to 14 points until a muffed punt return in the fourth quarter set them up to score their third touchdown. But Denver got itself into scoring position (and won in time of possession) by running the football early and often — totaling 153 rushing yards on 40 attempts. While the average of 3.8 yards was not noteworthy, the way the Broncos used their running game to dictate the game’s flow certainly was.
“They ran the ball really well on offense,” observed Kansas City safety Justin Reid in his post-game press conference, “and that was the biggest key to them having their success. We’re going to really need to tighten up the run game on the defensive side of the ball.”
Broncos’ running backs combined for 32 rushing attempts, hammering the Chiefs’ defensive over and over again. It took advantage of a Kansas City second level that was without linebacker Nick Bolton, who went on the team’s injured reserve list on Saturday. Bolton’s thumping play style was missed against the Denver offense — which was completely committed to the ground game.
Bolton’s effectiveness comes not only from his physicality, but also his mindset. Reid believes that on Sunday, the unit did lack some of that mentality.
“It wasn’t like guys had the wrong attitude,” noted the veteran safety. “You just have to go out there and be aggressive; when the opportunity is there to make a play, you just have to go out there and make [it].
“It’s okay to come out and be on your heels at the beginning, but you have to be able to shake back from there and overcome adversity — and not fold. I thought in a lot of ways, we didn’t fold. Still, we could have come out stronger than we did.”
Credit must be given to the Broncos’ offense — which was completely dominated during the Week 6 game in Kansas City. Reid could tell that the Denver coaches (and quarterback Russell Wilson) had done their homework, finding the right way to attack the Chiefs.
“They took some game-plan notes from the [Los Angeles Chargers] game, using a little bit of tempo. Russ was using tempo to get to the line of scrimmage real quick — and made us show what kind of defense we were in. From there, he was just making checks at the line to put [the offense] in the right place. That was a good job by them.
“We’re just going to have to change up the looks better — hold disguises better — so that teams aren’t able to identify what we’re trying to do, and check into the right call.”
It isn’t the first time tempo has been used to disrupt defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit, but the Chargers really are the team that has executed it best. Denver’s success on Sunday could have revealed a blueprint other offenses can use to attack the Chiefs’ defense.
Statistically, the defense has been one of the league’s best this season — but those impressive marks have largely been from the pass defense. On the ground, the defense is now allowing 4.4 yards per carry — the NFL’s seventh-highest rate.
That number has been impacted by Bolton’s on-and-off availability — and the linebacker will miss more games as he recovers from his wrist surgery. As the team deals with that, it will also have to face the high-powered rushing attacks fielded by the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles in the next two games.
While it is possible to chalk up Sunday’s game to a division foe being better prepared for the game, Reid was correct to call out the Kansas City run defense. Even without Bolton, it needs to improve. Otherwise, upcoming opponents may find similar success holding onto the ball, keeping the defense on the field for long, tiring possessions — and avoiding obvious passing situations.