From The Armchair: Denver Broncos: Week 11
Sunday Night Football featured the 8-1 Broncos hosting the league’s last undefeated team, the Kansas City Chiefs under the lights at Sports Authority Field. All eyes around the league were focused on this one coming in as the Broncos entered with the league’s best offense and the Chiefs with the league’s best defense and this game would have an impact on not only the drivers seat for the AFC West but the #1 playoff seed in the AFC.
The Broncos came out of the gate strong on defense forcing the Chiefs to punt on their first three possessions while starting on offense with a field goal on their first drive. The biggest two plays of the first half came late in the first quarter. The Chiefs forced a Montee Ball fumble and recovered it at the Denver 18 yard line setting them up in prime position to take the lead. The fortunes turned on the very first play as Danny Trevathan forced an Anthony Sherman fumble giving the Broncos the ball right back. Manning orchestrated an 84 yard touchdown drive ending with Julius Thomas’ 10th TD catch of the year. The Chiefs countered with a huge touchdown drive to answer and get within 3, but the Broncos countered right back with a matching 79 yard drive as Montee Ball spun in from a yard out to make the score 17-7. The Chiefs hung tough and came back with a field goal on their next drive and we went to the half with the Broncos holding a 17-10 lead.
The teams opened up the 2nd half by not doing a whole lot of anything. The two offenses combined to pick up just 35 total yards on their first 3 possessions before Denver drove 65 yards with Montee Ball’s 2nd rushing touchdown giving the Broncos a 24-10 lead. They stretched the lead to 27-10 halfway through the 4th effectively sealing the deal. The Chiefs did score with under 5 minutes but that was all they could manage and the Broncos finished with a 27-17 win and first place in the division and conference.
The story of the offensive side of the football was by far the work done by the offensive line. Peyton Manning came into the game nursing a high right ankle sprain and the Chiefs lead the league in sacks. The O-line kept Manning clean all night, not allowing a sack and limiting the number of hits Manning took to 2. Peyton finished the night 24-40 with 323 yards, 1 TD pass and no turnovers. Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with 121 yards, while Moreno had a respectable night on the ground gaining 75 yards, but didn’t have any receptions.
The Chiefs did a great job stopping the Broncos on wide receiver screen plays and were physical all night at the line of scrimmage trying to disrupt timing. They also got the Broncos to be a little more conservative at times than we’ve seen through the first 9 games. The Broncos were unable to score on more than two consecutive drives, but still scored more than any other team has against Kansas City this year and racked up 427 total yards of offense.
As far as areas of concern, Wes Welker who caught 8 balls for 72 yards left the game in the 4th quarter with what was confirmed today as a concussion. He will have to pass independent baseline testing before seeing action again and the soonest he can fully participate in practice will be Friday. Julius Thomas also left the game early after hyperextending his knee on a pass play in the flat. He’s been ruled day-to-day and should be ready next week.
Thomas’ 10th TD reception tied a franchise record for tight ends, set twice by Shannon Sharpe.
I don’t think anybody was concerned or frightened by the Chiefs offense coming into this one, but the defense to a man talked about wanting to make a statement not only to the Chiefs, but to the football world that they can be a force to reckon with. The Broncos did a good job against Jamaal Charles who is by far the Chiefs most explosive weapon leading them in rushing yards and receptions. Although Charles did break a 35 yard run, the Denver D limited him to just 43 yards on his other 15 carries, well below his all world 5.5 yards per carry average, and played him well in the pass game as he caught only two passes for -6 yards.
Dwayne Bowe was able to make a couple big catches, but only had 57 receiving yards for the game. As per usual with this defense, there were a lot of open throws in the middle of the field which was the main area the Chiefs went to in order to pick up 3rd down conversions.
Danny Trevathan was a beast leading the team with 11 tackles and his forced fumble. He was responsible most of the night for the backs coming out of the backfield in the passing game and was flying all over the field. Shaun Philips also stepped up huge with 1.5 sacks and was the most consistent rusher all night. The Chiefs did a great job neutralizing Von Miller as he was not a factor at all.
I love Duke Ihenacho, the guy is a difference maker, but he showed flashes of immaturity Sunday night including a stupid unsportsmanlike penalty after a good play in coverage. Penalties in general were a problem for this team, especially in the secondary where Chris Harris Jr. was flagged a couple times for defensive holding.
Matt Prater was 2 for 3 on field goals, missing his first attempt of the year, a 52 yarder, late in the first half. The unsung group in this game was probably the punt coverage team as they kept the dangerous Dexter McCluster in check all night.
Up next, the Broncos travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots Sunday night in another nationally televised game. Despite the Patriots' loss to the Panthers, it’s always difficult facing Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in their house.