One Chief, One Bronco, One Matchup. (Part 1)

AA - Crowd Noise final

We all know that football is a team sport. And sometimes in football, the best scheme wins. But within the teams and schemes, individual matchups rule.

As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the Denver Broncos this week and next, I’m going to offer what I think are the two most important individual matchups on the field. This week, I’ll look at the most important player match-up when the Chiefs have the ball. Next week, I’ll do the same for the scenario that has everyone in the NFL salivating: when the Chiefs defense takes on the Broncos offense.

The Broncos defense is not quite as bad as their offense is good, but they are pretty bad. They are tied for 25th in the League in points allowed, with 27.3 points per game. Even Pittsburgh, which gave up 55 points to the New England Patriots last week, is ranked higher than the Broncos. According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Broncos D is ranked 18th in total defense and their run defense is actually ranked fourth best. It’s their pass defense – ranked 22nd – that has brought the defense down.

Of course, no one’s exactly handing out offensive awards to the Kansas City Chiefs this year. The Chiefs are 16th in the League in scoring, although a third of their points are from either the special teams or defense. Using FootballOutsiders.com again, the Chiefs rank 16th in overall offense. They are 17th in passing and 8th in rushing offense.

Conventional wisdom would certainly suggest that the best way to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos is simply to keep him off the field. For conventional game plans, that would translate into a clock-eating ground game with lots of carries for Jamaal Charles and even Knile Davis. We’d expect to see a lot of fullback Anthony Sherman in this scenario.

But these Broncos are stout against the run. And sometimes, convention isn’t the best strategy. Here are a few potential individual matchups to consider when the Chiefs have the ball:

Chiefs Right Guard Jon Asamoah vs. Broncos Left Defensive Tackle Kevin Vickerson: Vickerson is ranked as the 42nd best defensive tackle by AdvancedNFLStats.com. By way of comparison, Dontari Poe is ranked 9th. If Asamoah can handle Vickerson, with an occasional double team from Eric Fisher or Sherman, the Chiefs can run Charles and Davis repeatedly on the right side. The benefits here are clear. We eat up the clock. And we run away from Broncos Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller, who, by November 17, will likely be back to 2012 form.

Chiefs Receiver Donnie Avery vs. Broncos Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Rodgers-Cromartie is ranked as the 28th best corner by FootballOutsiders.com. Again, for comparison, the Chiefs Marcus Cooper is 9th, Brandon Flowers is 12th and Sean Smith is 14th. Avery is a smart veteran and is quicker than Rodgers-Cromartie. Rodgers-Cromartie has just not been good in coverage this year. This disparity is minimized however, in the small spaces of those inside slants that Avery loves to run.

Chiefs Slot Receiver Dexter McCluster vs. Broncos Cornerback Chris Harris: Harris is ranked as the 24th best corner. McCluster seems to get better with each game, as Andy Reid finds better ways to utilize him.

Chiefs Receiver Dwayne Bowe vs. Broncos Cornerback Champ Bailey: Bailey is coming off a serious ankle injury and has just played six quarters of football this year. Historically, he has had some great games against Bowe. Bowe has a 2” height advantage over Bailey and is six years his junior. Some may say that Bailey has lost a step, but he’s one of the savviest corners in the game.

Of these four options, the key matchup is clear as day to me: it’s Bowe vs. Bailey. Here’s a history of Bowe’s games against Bailey and the Broncos (the Broncos acquired Bailey from Washington in 2004), with the numbers signifying catches and yards:

Year

          Game 1

          Game 2

     Year Total

2007

9 / 105

2 / 35

11 / 140

2008

7 / 96

7 / 85

14 / 181

2009

1 / 6

Suspended

1 / 6

2010

13 / 186

0 / 0

13 / 186

2011

2 / 17

6 / 93

8 / 110

2012

4 / 41

Injured

4 / 41

Total

   

51 / 664

Average Yards/Catch

   

13.0

Average/Game

   

5 / 66

The best game for Bailey was the second game of 2010, when he shut Bowe down. But Bowe has also had good games against Bailey, like his six-catch performance in 2011 and most of the games in 2007-2008.

As this season has progressed, Bowe and Alex Smith are getting more comfortable with one another. That means at least two things. First, on the short routes that Smith favors, their timing and route familiarity are becoming sharper. Second, on intermediate and long routes where Bowe looks covered, Smith may give Bowe a chance to make some plays using his size advantage.

If the Smith-to-Bowe connection doesn’t heat up, the Chiefs risk resorting to the one dimensional offense we saw against the Bills and Browns. The Broncos defense will pack the short and intermediate sections of the field and also turn pass rushers Von Miller and Shaun Phillips loose – this in fact, has been every defensive coordinator’s game plan against the Chiefs for the past several games.

If the Smith-to-Bowe connection does heat up, the running game and short and intermediate passing lanes will also open up, and with that combination, the Chiefs can eat up valuable time with long drives. Additionally, Bowe can break one or two passes for a TD or long gain, creating offensive scores which the Chiefs will need to win this game.

The Chiefs are the underdog going into this game. We need an offensive matchup that can give the Chiefs the advantage. Dwayne Bowe vs. Champ Bailey is my key individual match up when the Chiefs have the ball. Addicts, what’s yours?!!

Topics: Kansas City Chiefs

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  • berttheclock

    Smith? to Bowe? Who is this Smith you mention? I thought John Dorsey had, finally, come to his senses and listened to the pleas of micah and Danny W and sent Alex Smith packing. So, who is this new Smith and how was he acquired? We all know the Chiefs can not possibly win with that game manager the Chiefs wasted two draft choices on, now, do we not? Fortunately, Mr Dorsey does not read comments and does not bend with the very ill wind. “Oh my, oh my, we are only nine and zip with a weak armed game manager. Why with a far better and stronger QB, we could have been nine and zip, couldn’t we?” Oh yeah, that pesky weak first half schedule and, now, the team will have to face Real Americans and in their native habitat to boot. Why, we will have to head out to the land of the Sand Creek Massacre and Colonel “Chivington” Manning will bring his Volunteer Militia to the frey.

    BTW, as to the ranking of Poe at 9th among DTs, what is his ranking among pure nose tackles? This week, Pro Football Focus noted he has taken at least a games worth of snaps ahead of any other nose tackle in the NFL for the first eight games. He has taken, virtually, every snap for the Chiefs. He is no longer a two down lineman. He is a well oiled machine with great conditioning and he is the main reason the sack attack has flourished.

    • Jim Harper

      ROFL!! Bert, you are in fine form today. Absolutely loved your thoughtful and original post. Well done, my friend, well done indeed.

    • Blake Molina

      Sports Illustrated had Poe on their All-Pro team

    • sidibeke

      I’m going to give the credit for drafting him to Crennel. :)

    • paul pace

      Here, here!

  • berttheclock

    I still await the game where Knile Davis can bring about his version of “Sketches of Spain” and rise to stardom. Knile, please, more Miles in your on field performances.

  • Mark Bustamante

    This game is going to come down to clock management and turnovers. Keep manning off the field and when he is on the field mix up the defense and throw odd blitzes at him. Force him to move around try to force passes

    • chris

      We can only how that’s what decides the game bc that’s what the chiefs are best at(well the turnover thing) as for top were pretty good at that and the Denver defence is the weakest one weve faced in a while while its obvious that the chiefs defense is better than denvers offense is used to facing

    • Larry Devore

      actually it’s going to come down to Alex Smith. He needs to step up his passing game. If Alex can’t keep the team going, Denver only has to do is stack the box against Charles.

  • berttheclock

    To better understand how the Colts defeated the Broncos, I would suggest you google the Pro Football Focus ratings for Week 7 and the Broncos Colts game.

    The Colts only blitzed four times, but, had 20 hurries against Peyton. One of the key plays was a strip sack which ended up causing a safety. But, note the various awards given out, especially, to Vontae Davis for his excellent coverage. There is a note of caution from the article. It was the week the Donkies excellent pass rusher returned and, even though, he was rusty, he caused havoc to Luck. One other note about that game. It showed the depth in the offensive line of the Broncos. Their excellent off season pickup of Vasquez to play a solid guard paid off as he had to move to RT to protect Manning. One other player who has stepped up was the backup Clark, who took over at LT. He was a waiver wire pickup in 2010.

  • Jason Seibel

    I loved everything you said except when you talk about the Broncos Defense being good against the run. As I said on AA Radio last night, that is a skewed stat. Teams aren’t running on the Broncos nearly as much as they’re running on other teams, because the Broncos are usually winning early on. Yes, they have the third best rushing defense in regards to yards per game, but they also have the fourth fewest attempts against them. Nearly 20% of all first downs they’ve given up are on the ground and they’ve given up 8 rushing TDs. I don’t think it’s as good as people think it is and it will be the key to the Chiefs beating them.

    • Jarad

      My thought exactly.

    • berttheclock

      I really do not know your MOS, but, more and more I believe it has to do with Air Force Intelligence.

      • Jason Seibel

        I hope you didn’t mean that in the oxymoron sense as in there’s no such thing as military intelligence. :)

        • berttheclock

          Having worked in S-2, how well I understand.

          • Michael Shaw

            ROFLMAO!!!!! Former Navy Submariner here, so I KNOW there is no such thing as military intelligence!!!

          • Jim Harper

            Hey Michael! Me too! USS Hammerhead SSN663. I was on the commissioning crew and am a plank owner. I loved it an often wish I had stayed.

          • Jim Harper

            Hey Michael! Me too! USS Hammerhead SSN663. I was on the commissioning crew and am a plank owner. I loved it an often wish I had stayed.

          • chris

            There are few intelligent people in the military and most of the intellegent ones get out aftertheir first term thus leaving the overall leadership of the military in the low intelligence department. So I concur boo military intelligence (I am a former marine, fdc for artillery)

          • berttheclock

            Hey, my original comment about Air Force Intelligence was meant as a compliment to the work of Jason. He is an intelligent writer.

            However, I was a 39 month Red Leg serving in S-2 for a Group HQ. Spent over a year in an eight inch self propelled unit. I knew intelligent people who stayed in. I knew limited ones who did not. However, when I think of those you speak of, I think of the US Marine Generals who believed attacking Pelieu would be a cake walk. I think of Dug Out Doug who sent them there in the first place in an unneeded attack to protect his flank. I think of those who ordered US Army troops into the Huertgen Forest. I think of the US Naval officers who refused air cover for those first waves of dive bombers to attack off Midway. However, Over Hill Over Dale, onward to Denver, set up the aiming circles and fire for effect.

    • anon76returns

      Teams are rushing against the Broncos 24 times per game (192 carries in 8 games). Teams are rushing against the Chiefs 23.8 times per game (214 carries in 9 games).
      Among their non-common opponents, the Chiefs faced four teams that have collectively rushed 959 times for 4001 yards on the season, a 4.17 yards/carry clip. The Broncos have faced three teams that have collectively rushed 652 times for 2717 yards on the season, also a 4.17 yards/carry average.
      The Broncos and Chiefs are seeing basically the same number of carries against them, by teams basically averaging the same number of yards per carry. The difference is that while the Broncos have seen those 24 carries per game translate to 82 yards/game, the Chiefs have seen the 23.8 rushes per game against them translate into 119 yards per game, good enough for #24 in the league.
      If the Broncos rush defense stats are better than the Chiefs’, it’s because the Broncos are better against the run.

      • Jason Seibel

        I’m not comparing the Broncos rushing D against the Chiefs rushing D. The Chiefs have had two games where they were gashed on the ground (Philly and Buffalo) but other than that have been ok. The Broncos, on the other hand, have the benefit of having the best offense in the league which leaves teams a bit more likely to try to pass to catch up than to run to grind out the game. I think the majority of running plays used against the Broncos was the to enhance the game plan of “keep Manning off the field.” I like your stats breakdown, but the thing about stats is, you can use them to make whatever point you want. You just have spin them the right way. I still stand by my assertation that the Denver D is horrible and their run D isn’t as good as the stats say they are.

        • anon76returns

          Here’s the thing about abandoning the run to play catch up- the average half time score on the season has been Broncos 17, opponents 14. Only 1 team (the Raiders) have been down more than a score at halftime, Two teams (Balt & Indy) were actually leading at the half, and three more were tied or within two points (Washington, Jags, and Giants). If teams were able to run the ball effectively against the Broncos, then the ideal time to do that would be in the 3rd quarter, when your team is within 1 score. However, teams haven’t been able to do it.
          Furthermore, if the majority of run plays are to “keep Manning off the field” (exactly what you seem to be saying the Chiefs should do as key to beating the Broncos above), it hasn’t been a very successful strategy. A 3.4 yards per carry average (under 3.1 for running backs) does not lead to many extended drives.

        • anon76returns

          As for Denver’s D sucking, well that’s a bit subjective. Their passing D is ranked 10th for opponents passer rating, 8th in opponent’s completions %, and first in the league in both interceptions and passes defensed.
          Furthermore, they’ve given up 630 passing yards in the 4th quarter when up by 14 or more points. If they played in those situations like they played the rest of their games, they’d have “only” given up 259 yards per game (24th in the league), instead of 299 yards per game (29th) as they have now.

          Even more important for their defensive performance has been the return of Von Miller. In the 2 weeks that he’s been back, they’ve gone from ranking #15 in MMQB’s cumulative pressure points (pressure on 25.5% of passing downs), to #7 (28.6%). That’s pretty impressive- a cumulative statistic being changed that much in just two games shows the night and day difference between Denver’s D with and without Von.
          To further illustrate his effect, If the Broncos play out the 8 remaining games the same way they played in the 2 games with Von back (i.e. 10 games like the last 2 plus the 6 games before Von), their end-of-year pass defense rankings would be:
          opponents completion percentage 56.8%, ranked 4th (compared to 58.8%, ranked 8th now)
          opponents yards per attempt 6.6, ranked 7th (compared to 7.8, ranked 25th now)
          opponents yards per completion 11.7, ranked 14th (compared to 13.2, ranked 32nd & dead last now)
          opponents yards per game 241, ranked 13th (compared to 399, ranked 30th now)
          opponents QB rating 73.6, ranked 3rd (compared to 82.3, ranked 10th now)

          Of course that is a lot of projection from the way things are now, but the point is to illustrate how much better the Bronco’s D has been since Von came back. That is the D that was a top 3 unit last year, and that is the D that the Chiefs will face.

          • Jason Seibel

            Like I said bro. Stats are cool but you can make them say whatever you want. An objective look at the Broncos defense would say they suck based on how many points they’ve given up. Without the high powered offense this is a .500 ball club at best. I see the Chiefs 3 out outs non exisistent against Denver.

    • HerbanLegend

      Jason, you’ve taken the words directly out of my mouth…..err…..fingertips…..

  • Jarad

    KC gets pressure with 4 or its most likely a loss. Sounds a litte extreme, but thats the way i see it. I think Poe comes up HUGE and pushes Manning out of his comfort zone. Smith and the WRs will def need to show up as well. They dont have to be great, but make them respect you! GO CHIEFS!!!

  • ILChiefan

    A few weeks ago, I thought the Chiefs would be able to pressure Manning using only a four-man rush, leaving 7 men in coverage; the past three weeks, that hasn’t worked for us at all as lesser QBs have had plenty of time to throw. Now I fear that the only way to get to Manning will be via the blitz, which scares me. Not a hater and still think the Chiefs have a great chance to pull off a win in Denver…….but any ideas what has become of our pass rush? I think if we try and blitz him all day, we will pay. Nice article, btw.

    • Michael Shaw

      Honestly I think the last three weeks we have been going against better o-lines than what Denver is fielding next week against is. I think our front 4-5 guys can get after Peyton as long as he has to wait for a guy to get open. The problem is holding their WR’s long enough for our guys to get to him. He makes really quick throws to slow the pass rush.

    • MrChiefsFan

      I think a couple of things have happened to reduce the aggressiveness of our front four over the past three or so games. First, and by far the biggest, is the game plan was changed. The last few games have been against QB’s that, at least with their current team, these is little or no game footage. I think the DC dialed back the aggressiveness and played a more conservative type of football due to that. Second, and to a lesser extend, I think the guys are bit tired and playing a bit flat. That being said the bye week, coupled with playing the Broncos, will revitalize this defense. I think we come out swinging for the rest of the season and you see the front four once again getting to the QB more often.

      • sidibeke

        I also think the match ups have been hard. It’s hard to go out against teams your supposed to beat with the awaited Den match up on the horizon. Really, after 6-0, I think it’s mentally hard to get up for those last 3 games. But they did; they won the games they were supposed to. Good teams do that.

        • Larry Devore

          If you can’t get up for games no matter who you are playing, you might as well leave the field. You can’t look past the game that you are currently playing. If you do, team is in fort a rude awakening.

      • KCMikeG

        Good points. Having running or mobile QB’s who were getting rid of the ball very quickly and the success he experienced with the front four pressure in the earlier games also contributed to Sutton’s more conservative approach. IMO he was also testing the waters to see how this defense responded so he could fine tune and be ready for both blitzing and going cover heavy to keep Peyton off balance. To me the pressure knocking him down & around is the only way to win. Sitting back in coverage gets you picked apart.

  • ArrowFan

    Play action fake

  • ArrowFan

    How is Dumbvers special teams?

    • anon76returns

      The Broncos Kicker has converted every one of his 43 PATs and 12 FGs, including 9 over 40 yds and 3 over 50 yds. He also gets touchbacks on 74% of his kickoffs, with avg. opposition starting at the 20.2 yard line, 6th best in the league (same as Chiefs). Average return against Denver is 24.6 yards.
      The Broncos Punter (brother to the Chiefs’ Punter) puts the ball inside the 20 yard line 39% of the time, with only 39% of his punts being returnable, with returns averaging 10.2 yards per.
      Trindon Holliday is the Broncos Kick and Punt returner- he has them ranked #3 on Kick returns (30.2 yard avg) and #7 on punt returns (11.5 yard average), and he’s scored a touchdown on each.
      Misc Special teams- the Broncos force 5.5 punts per game, 6th most in the league. The Broncos lead the league in blocked punts with 2 (one recovered for a touchdown), though opponents still have a 47.6 yard gross average, the 3rd highest in the league. Opposition kickers have only missed one FG in 15 tries against the Broncos (not a block). They’ve run one fake punt, and picked up 35 yards.

      • berttheclock

        You do know your stats very well. Thanks for coming to this site.

        • anon76returns

          Thanks! It’s fun- plus most (free) websites don’t tend to aggregate these numbers, so it’s nice to see them altogether, just to know how your team is doing.

    • chris

      Their returner is really good (really small and quick, 5’6) and their punter is our punters brother and they gave a pretty good kicker im not too familiar with their blocking tho

  • Michael Shaw

    I want to see them overload one side like they did earlier in the year and then back DJ or Tamba off to cover the TE and pick him off. I think out DB’s can get 2-3 picks in this game if they play like they have been the last 9 games! I do have to agree with Jason about Denver’s D. I don’t think they are that good even with the jailbird back on the team.

  • Erik Hild

    I think the chiefs win in Denver 31-28

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