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Ultimate Fan Guide: Broncos' run defense cannot take a quarter off against Chiefs

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The Chiefs are chomping at the bit to beat the Broncos this weekend at Arrowhead. Though the rivalry is always a good one, this game could be for the AFC West. T.Kothe tells us how the Broncos can make sure they advance to 9-3.

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This upcoming game is a favorite among Broncos fans because one of the most satisfying teams to beat is the Kansas City Chiefs. But there will be nothing easy about doing that this weekend, even if the Denver Broncos have won at Arrowhead ever since Manning has been at the helm. Our Ultimate Fan T.Kothe is finishing up his college semester and looking for the Broncos to give him something to brag about in the student lounge.

DENVER v. KANSAS CITY

Hi, guys! T.Kothe here with a short disclaimer: I'm working on my final project for college and writing this during study breaks, so I apologize if any of this isn't well thought out or is a boring read. Believe me, it's not intentional, lol. One thing we can be certain of, though, is that the Chiefs have Manning & Co.'s full attention this week. Go Broncos!

MHR - The Dolphins game ended the right way, with the Broncos getting a W. What did you like from that game and what do you still think needs maj or improvement?

TK - I'm gonna start with my concerns first. Brandon McManus and the kicking game certainly earned a groan from me in this one, but I think our run defense was actually a bigger concern. It wasn't encouraging to see probably our worst rush D of the year the week before we face the Chiefs.

On the flip side, let's give some credit and love where it's due. The O-line absolutely rocked it all game. Also, I love the balanced game plan and execution we brought offensively. It's a relief seeing that the game's outcome can be carried on shoulders other than Manning's.

I'd like to take a moment to dig into a nice plate of crow. After C.J's big run against the Raiders, I was one of the few vocally downplaying him. Well, he's answered my doubt pretty emphatically. -T.Kothe

On that note, I'd like to take a moment to dig into a nice plate of crow. After C.J.'s big run against the Raiders, I was one of the few vocally downplaying him. Not that it wasn't an incredible run and amazing effort, but I felt we had no proof it wasn't a fluke considering how few carries he'd had and the team it happened against. I wanted to see if he could actually hack it when carrying 20+ times against a team not named the Raiders. Well, he's answered my doubt pretty emphatically. Best of luck to you, Mr. Anderson, and may you dodge many bullets - er, tackles.

MHR - After the two losses to the Patriots and the Rams, there was a lot of concern about the Broncos chances in the postseason. Did the Miami game do enough to gain back the fans' confidence in the team to be able to do what it needs to do to finish the season strong - and with a championship - or is this team likely just good for a playoff game or two?

TK - I won't lie. For a lot of the Dolphins game I was considering giving up any Super Bowl expectations. I decided if we just rolled over again and accepted the loss that we had no business being in the big game. But I also thought if our boys could manage to pull off the comeback win it would really show something. Well, they did. And the fight our team showed has certainly earned back this fan's confidence. Maybe we'll get that third Lombardi this year and maybe we won't, but now I'm confident that either way we won't just go quietly into the night.

MHR - The offensive line had taken a beating - both literally by other defenses and figuratively by the public - before last week's game and then it came out and had a superior performance against a very strong defense. How do you think it will respond against the Chiefs this week?

TK - I hope that our guys will take confidence from that performance and run with it. Hopefully those beatings they took put a chip on their shoulders big enough to not be satisfied with a single good game. I think they can do that. They know the Chiefs' defensive reputation and how much is going to hinge on them, and I think they'll respond. They'll play hungry but with confidence that they can definitely do this.

MHR - The Broncos are going to be without several more key players, possibly including Julius Thomas and Brandon Marshall. How will our injuries affect the play this week?

TK - I'm not too worried on the offensive side of the ball. I think Welker still has more left in him than he's shown this season and can have a big day on third downs and in the red zone in JT's absence. Defensively, I think the linebacking unit is a concern. Travis Kelce makes me a bit anxious given what Gronk did earlier this season. On the other hand, Fox and Co. have done an amazing job developing young LBs into playmakers year after year. These young guns might just surprise us! I'm not too worried about our cornerback injuries this week given the Chiefs' woeful passing "attack."

MHR - The Broncos finally showed some balance in the offense last week, almost splitting evenly between running and passing plays. What do you expect - and think will be necessary - from the running attack this Sunday?

TK - I hope that we go with a balanced game plan again. With the Chiefs' run-heavy offense, they're well positioned to play clock control ball against us. Because of that, it'll be crucial to slow down our own attack, control the clock ourselves, and give our defense time to rest. The running game is how all of that can happen, which means we need another great week of blocking from our line and for C.J. to be at the top of his game.

MHR - The Broncos waived Brandon McManus and signed veteran Connor Barth from the Buccaneers as the new kicker. How does this change our game plan this weekend?

TK - That really depends on our defense. If the D is holding the Chiefs to field goals rather than touchdowns or not allowing points at all, we'll see more willingness to go for field goals ourselves. Hopefully this won't erase our recent willingness to go for it in reasonable fourth-down situations, though. Personally, I'll be watching our kickoffs with interest. Like a lot of folks, I want to see how Barth performs regarding touchbacks at the new distance.

It will be crucial to slow down our own attack, control the clock ourselves and give our defense time to rest. The running game is how all that can happen.   -T.Kothe

MHR - The Broncos defense had been a dominant force in the Broncos wins early in the season. And while it has shown flashes of brilliance in recent games, the overall defense has seemed to struggle against the run and has consistently gotten beat on third and long. What accounts for this and what should Jack Del Rio be doing about it?

TK - Frankly, I don't really know, lol. I don't understand defensive football tactics nearly as well as the offensive side. So in lieu of any real insight, I'll just say this: Whether they're attacking on the ground or in the air, I want to see our guys swarming the ball/ball carrier.

MHR - Jamaal Charles continues to be a workhorse for the Chiefs - such as his 159 yards versus the Seahawks two weeks ago. And Kansas City rushes a game average of 137 yards. How does the Broncos defense stop him and the Chiefs' run game on Sunday?

TK - See the disclaimer in the last question, lol. Aside from that, I'd like to see a big game out of T.J. Ward. Play him as an LB perhaps or simply have him crash the line as soon as he sees where Charles is heading. The D-line needs to have a big day getting push and filling holes too, but I really want to see Ward and some of the other guys in the secondary shutting Charles down at the edges and when he reaches the second level.

MHR - If you were Adam Gase, what kind of an offensive game plan would you put together for the matchup against the Chiefs, who've had a strong defensive showing all season?

TK - I'd definitely want to make use of a balanced attack if possible. The Chiefs have a really good defense, but they're hardly the first good defensive team we've played. If we can establish both the run and the pass, and play some clock control of our own, I think we can dominate the flow of the game.

MHR - If you were Jack Del Rio, what kind of a defensive game plan would you put together for the matchup against Alex Smith and the Chiefs, who had been on fire until their loss to the Raiders 10 days ago?

TK - First and foremost I'd want to stop the running game. You can assume Charles gets at least one big run for the day. That can't be allowed to go for a TD or to set one up. That means getting a strong showing from the D-line in the center and likely having T.J. Ward cheat in as more of a linebacker/run stuffer on a lot of snaps to help fill out the thin linebacking corps. The Chiefs passing game isn't a huge threat except to their TEs, so overall I'd say on defense our linebacker/safety play will be paramount on Sunday.

MHR - The Chiefs just added two defensive players - Nick Williams and Ja'Gared Davis.  Do you see the Broncos offense having a tough time with the Chiefs' D?

TK - Yeah, to some degree. I think we'll see another slow start, unfortunately. I think, though, if we can keep our offensive playcalling truly balanced, we can put their defense off balance. It's a Peyton Manning offense, after all. The Chiefs, almost by default, will still need to game plan against a primarily passing attack. We can take advantage of that!

MHR - How big of a factor do you think Arrowhead stadium will be in our play, and how much of that should be accounted for in the game plan this week?

TK - It's hard to tell. Based on recent history, I'd say not all that big. After all, we haven't lost there with Manning under center yet. That said, the stadium's loudness will definitely need to be taken into account through non-verbal signals and hard counts. It's good practice, though, so I don't begrudge it. Keep an eye out for how the shuffled O-line deals with non-verbal signals, though. That'll be interesting to see.

MHR - Aside from the crowd, what do you expect to be the Broncos' biggest challenges this weekend in facing the Chiefs and how do the Broncos overcome those?

TK - For a unit that lost its most talented corner in the offseason, the Chiefs secondary has been giving excellent performances. We'll need to overcome that without allowing the Chiefs' very good pass rush to get to Manning. Combine the two (and the crowd noise) and it's clear that the biggest offensive challenge will be having a solid-to-great game from the O-line. On the other side of the ball, our linebacking corps has a stiff challenge with KC's running backs and tight end.

Our remaining schedule may not be the hardest in the league, but it's certainly no cakewalk. This game at the Chiefs is clearly the most important of those.   -T.Kothe

MHR - Last week I asked if the Dolphins game was a do-or-die kind of win for the Broncos. Do you think all our games are that moving forward, or will there be room for a loss? Even if there is room, what would it say about our preparedness if we lose?

TK - Our remaining schedule may not be the hardest in the league, but it's certainly no cakewalk. If nothing else we've got three divisional games left and sweeping your division is never an easy feat. This game at the Chiefs is clearly the most important of the remaining games, enough for a do-or-die in regard to winning the division and a first-week bye.

If we drop one of the others, so be it. This team has never come in without a bye or as a wildcard under Manning. Personally, I'd be interested to see how they react. That reaction once we're there is all I really care about. So many things can cause you to win or lose a game that I don't think it's reasonable to make judgments on our preparedness without first seeing how/why a given loss happened.

MHR - Chiefs' safety Eric Berry got some bad news this week about possible lymphoma and will be out the rest of the season. Although the Chiefs are one of our biggest conference foes, how does news like this remind us it is just a game?

TK - That was some absolutely horrible news indeed, and I join everyone in sending thoughts and prayers on his behalf. I think it's something that has certainly been in the back of our players' minds as well. It's one of those freak things that happens, and every guy in the league knows that any given week could be his last whether due to injury or illness.

Predictions:

  • Full stat line for Peyton Manning? 28/37 for 323 yards and 3 TDs
  • Number of yards total by the Broncos running backs? 154
  • Which wide receiver will have the most yards? Emmanuel Sanders
  • Number of sacks on Alex Smith? 2
  • Number of sacks on Manning? 0
  • Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall/Corey Nelson (depending on which one plays)
  • Broncos player with the most INTs? Bradley Roby (1)
  • Number of penalties/yards on the Broncos? 8/72 yards (hope I shot high...)
  • Final Score? Broncos 35, Chiefs 28 (*editor's note: T.Kothe forgot to put in a score, so I made one up for him. Then he came back with 34-27... those college kids are a smart bunch these days!)

The Favorites

Favorite team to watch the Broncos play?

The Packers. I know that's a bit of an odd response, but my first memory of football is of watching Super Bowl XXXII with my dad. So this matchup means a lot to me on the rare occasions that it happens.

Team you most hate for the Broncos to lose to?

That's a hard choice, since there are several teams I loathe. I'd have to go with the Patriots. Not necessarily because I dislike them the most, but because of the way we lose to them when we do.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster?

Emmanuel Sanders. I kinda latched onto him early, and it's been a pleasure watching him. The guy plays tough and never gives up. You've got to admire the way he'll put himself out there for any catch, no matter what.

Favorite Broncos player of all time?

It's definitely John Elway.

Favorite thing to eat during a game?

Bratwurst and/or buffalo wings.

Favorite Game-Day ritual?

Going up to my parents' place to watch the game with my family.

What is your favorite Game-Day attire?

The Broncos ball cap I bought while visiting the stadium this summer. But college is ending and soon I'll be able to afford that first jersey...

Most embarrassing-to-admit superstitious behavior regarding Broncos on Game Day?

My university's student center boasts the largest TV screen in the state, so a part of me likes togo there to watch games. But almost every time I do we end up losing, so these days I'm sadly more likely to just watch the game the next day on my desktop with NFL Rewind if I can't make it to my parents' place.

Best Broncos game ever played (or if you want something different, favorite come-from-behind win?)

TK - I'll stick with best game, and I'll take Super Bowl XXXII.

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