This week's Ultimate Fan is newly-wedded and had hoped to be in Denver for this always-heated rivalry game against the Chiefs. Unfortunately that could not happen, but T.Kothe is planning on his beloved Broncos and his favorite player Emmanuel Sanders giving him a great show via the big screen. (also, he thinks he may have been the reason for last weekend's loss, so he has corrected the error and promises IT. WILL. NOT. HAPPEN. AGAIN.)
Denver v. Kansas City
Man, I can't believe I'm not going to get to go to this game live. For the second year in a row! I was so excited, had my ticket and everything. And then the financial realities of being a newlywed hit, and round trip plane tickets from Tulsa to Denver just aren't among those realities.
Well, such is life. I'll get to go see my first live NFL game one of these days! In the meantime, I'll have to settle for watching from home our Denver Broncos continue their divisional dominance by putting the hurt on the Chiefs at home!
MHR - The loss to Indy had a few bright spots, including plays to tight ends and especially Owen Daniels. How could this help the Broncos against the Chiefs? What do you expect from Vernon Davis this week?
T.Kothe: Props to Owen Daniels, first off. The guy has really been a big contributor these past two games and hopefully that continues. I think Peyton's increasing confidence in this system is a big part of that too, as Daniels is the guy who's an expert in Kubes' playbook. An effective tight end passing threat could be huge against the Chiefs, because it'll help spread out a deceptively dangerous secondary, but more importantly, it can be a factor in slowing down the pass rush with short routes.
For Davis, I think we'll see him get another couple of deeps shots this week and a few more snaps than last week, but he won't be truly effective yet. Look for that to come after another week or two in the system.
MHR - The running game reappeared against the Packers but then disappeared again versus the Colts and Gary Kubiak seemed surprised by a lopsided number of pass v. run plays. Should Kubiak stay committed to the run no matter what and/or how should the Broncos get their run mojo back?
T.Kothe: There were some signs out there that the Colts are better against the run than many of us assumed. Still, though, we've got to establish a running game that can still produce in the face of adversity. Running effectively will set up everything else, including the play-action, like we saw against Green Bay, so Kubiak absolutely needs to stay committed to it. I'd like to see more efforts to get the ball out to the side in space this week, since last week our backs seemed to be running straight into the pile all day long or running to one side only to run straight into the pile anyway as it moved the same direction.
MHR - Without igniting a debate (well, not too much), what is your objective assessment of Manning's passing the last two games? Despite two INTs last week, he also put in his best PFF grade and connected on some very impressive long balls.
T.Kothe: I'm still less worried now than I was several weeks ago. Yeah, the second interception at Indy helped seal things in their favor. But the throw itself wasn't all that bad from what I remember and the defender made a good play on the ball. (I haven't gotten to re-watch the game yet, though, so forgive me if my impression is wrong.)
I think there's plenty to be optimistic about considering the emergence of some effective deep balls and better overall accuracy on Peyton's part. We'll have to see how things go with his foot, though. I wouldn't mind Brock starting against the Bears, if necessary, in order to rest Peyton.
MHR - The Broncos passed on OL Joe Thomas, and most fans seemed fine with Elway's decision not to give up too much. Was it a good move after all, given the O-line's performance last week?
T.Kothe: In John Elway I trust.
A 2017 first-rounder is more valuable than it first appears, in my opinion, since objectively it is likely that we'll be picking earlier in the 2017 draft than in 2016's edition. That's if Peyton retires, of course. Our next QB is likely to be a first-time starter whether it's Brock or Trevor or whomever, and first-time starters at QB struggle in almost all cases. It's natural. It's necessary.
But it also results in more valuable picks, and combined with the third-rounder the Browns reportedly wanted, that's sacrificing two future multi-year starters for one. It's just too much for an LT on the wrong side of 30. And it's only been one game since that whole deal anyway. So no, my knees aren't considering jerking on this one. ;)
MHR - The O-line is going to have to be on point this weekend at home as they face some tough pass rushers again from the Chiefs. After getting pushed around by the Colts, which lineman/linemen needs to show the most improvement this weekend?
T.Kothe: Offensive line play is my analytical Achilles heel. Can I pass the question on to CH74? No? Dang it. Well, OK then. I can't answer directly since I don't tend to watch the O-line on my first viewing, and I haven't gotten to watch the game again yet. I will say, though, that our tackles will be the critical guys this week. We've got to hold off their edge rushers or we're in for a long day with an uncomfortable Peyton.
MHR - What offensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos?
T.Kothe: Rushing yards. I want at least 150 yards with at least 30 rushing attempts. I almost went with zero turnovers, but I think that with this offensive system the best way to get that is to have an effective running game, and therefore, an effective play-action game. This offense clicks when the running game is being productive.
MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos offense this Sunday?
I'm not entirely sure I can point to a specific player on offense and say that this guy right here is definitely going to rock it this weekend. There's just been too much inconsistency and too much has changed on the offense since we last played KC. So I'll give my three top candidates for it - Demaryius Thomas, Sanders and Daniels.
MHR - The Chiefs' offense has never been high-powered but quite efficient, especially with Travis Kelce. What does our defense need to do to keep Alex Smith from getting off short passes to the TEs that turn into huge games?
T.Kothe: Our safeties will be huge in dealing with Kelce. Our corners should, by and large, be fine by themselves against the Chiefs' receivers, even with Aqib Talib suspended (and rightly so). Kayvon Webster is kind of a forgotten guy this year due to Bradley Roby's excellence, but he's a legitimate NFL third corner who can handle his share of the load. T.J. Ward needs to always have an eye on Kelce and be ready to crash down on him at a moment's notice. Though for coverage, I'd prefer to have Darian Stewart and/or Brandon Marshall on Kelce.
MHR - Will the NoFlyZone be able to shut down Jeremy Maclin this game?
T.Kothe: I expect them to, and I'll be very disappointed if they don't. Maclin and Kelce are Smith's only really legitimate targets with Charles out. We can't ignore Conley and Wilson, of course, but if Maclin and Kelce get shut down, the Chiefs aren't going to have a good passing day no matter what. If Chris Harris, Jr., Roby and our safeties can shut those two down, it'll be a perfect complement to what I hope will be the main thrust of our defensive game plan - stop the run.
MHR - The Broncos' improbable win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead ended with fans and players both stunned and ticked. Although that started a string of losses for the Chiefs, they have recently bounced back. How much of a factor will anger be for the Chiefs this week?
T.Kothe: They're certainly going to be using that as bulletin board material, but that was also eight weeks ago. That's a long time in an NFL season, and aged anger doesn't always catch fire like it does when it's fresh - as we witnessed Sunday. Not to mention, we've got reasons of our own to be angry after this last game.
MHR - So since the Broncos are coming off their first loss (and a rather embarrassing one at that), how could that loss positively or negatively impact this week's effort?
T.Kothe: Well, I'll tell you one way it won't negatively impact our team. We're not going to "act like we've been here before" about it. These aren't the same Broncos that couldn't get it together when the chips were down last season. I think Kubes will make sure their heads are on straight and Wade Philips and Bill Kollar won't let them suddenly stop doing what we've been doing all season. I think we'll see a fired-up defense that isn't about to let itself get pushed around two weeks in a row and certainly not on its own field.
MHR - The Chiefs don't have their main workhorse on the ground via Jamaal Charles, but their running game has still been fairly stable. How should this defense contain all their not-great-but-pretty-darn-good weapons on offense?
T.Kothe: Derek Wolfe is the vital guy here. He wasn't able to play in our first matchup, and his presence on our line as one of our best run defenders improved our run D from top 10 to top 4 or 5. We need to set the edges like we did against Aaron Rodgers & the Packers' running backs, since Smith can be dangerous with his legs too, and let the interior eat up runs and prevent the QB from stepping up. The one thing we need to avoid most of all is letting them execute long, clock- and endurance-killing drives on the ground.
MHR - What defensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game - and why is that one the most important this week?
T.Kothe: Take-aways, especially ones leading to defensive points. Our defense forced 2.833 takeaways on average per game through the first six games of the season. But we've now gone two games in a row without forcing any turnovers. We need to get back to ball-hawking and forcing fumbles. It was the difference maker in several games early season, and it would have been last Sunday too. Odds are good that that'll hold true this weekend as well.
MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos defense this Sunday?
T.Kothe: Wolfe. Even with Talib out, the Chiefs' aerial attack isn't all that scary, but they've been generating a great rushing attack even without Charles in the lineup. If we can shut that down, we'll win, and Wolfe is one of the key guys we need to step up and make sure that happens.
MHR - How would you coach the defense this week to not be afraid of their own aggression but not be stupid and get dumb penalties?
T.Kothe: I'm glad I'm not the coach, because my initial reaction would probably have been some very counter-productive yelling, lol. But to try and get them ready, I'd emphasize trusting the defensive system and looking for opportunities to force turnovers. At the same time I'd stress that their energy needs to be focused on putting their brothers, both within the defense and on the offense, in the best possible situation to succeed.
Kubiak said he told his players that with all the penalties on defense, there's a reputation & the team won't get the benefit of the doubt.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 11, 2015
Stats for Manning? 35 for 310 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
Yards rushing? Anderson - 75; Hillman - 50; Thompson
Yards catching? Demaryius Thomas - 6/95, 1 TD; Emmanuel Sanders - 8/118, 1 TD
Number of sacks to Manning? 2
Number of sacks on Alex Smith? 4
Broncos player with the most sacks? Shaq Barrett
Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall
Number of penalties on the Broncos offense/defense? 3 offense; 5 defense
Number of field goals/longest by McMoney? 3, longest 52
Final Score? Broncos 30, Chiefs 19
- Favorite game so far this season? Definitely the Packers game. That was a truly special defensive performance.
- Team you hate to lose to the most? That's a hard choice. I'd have to say it's the P*ts, though, because they're the one AFC team I actively loathe. The Seahawks lose out since we don't face them often in the regular season and with any other AFC franchise (read: Chefs) it's more about disliking the majority of their fans than the team itself.
- Is beating our AFCW rivals or beating the Patriots more important? Given the current state of things this season, beating the Patriots - especially due to home-field advantage. The Chefs and Raiduhs can't gain a tiebreaker on us at this point, so those matter less than they might. And the poor, broken Chargers aren't going to be a threat at any level unless they get a lot healthier than they are now.
- Game most looking forward to on the upcoming schedule? Patriots @ Home
- Game most worried about this season? Our first playoff game, whether it be in the wildcard or divisional round. At this point we're basically a lock to play in the postseason, so I'm more worried about winning once we're there.
- Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Sanders. I love the way the guy always puts out an excellent effort. He plays with heart, and I really like that.
- Favorite Broncos player of all time? Mr. John Elway, of course. Legendary QB, excellent GM, etc. What's not to love?
- Superstitions on game day? I didn't have one until last week. Now I do, and it's this: I will never go watch a game at my parents' house again if I can help it. I'm pretty sure that every time I do, we lose in an embarrassing fashion. @ Indy last weekend? Check. Divisional round vs Colts last season? Check. Super Bowl 48? Check. Sorry, guys. I think it's my bad. Dad and I will go to B-dubs (Buffalo Wild Wings) from now on to watch...
- Favorite jersey color combo for the Broncos? It's hard to not go with our current home jerseys, but I've gotta go with the blue jersey and white pants. My one childhood jersey was an Elway blue home jersey, and it's the first Broncos uniform combo I ever saw.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
It's actually my very first memory of football whatsoever. My folks had moved us to the Tulsa area a few years before, but I'd been born in Fort Collins and still loved (and still do love) Colorado.
My dad wanted me to watch the upcoming Broncos game with him, so I sat my 7-year-old self down beside him and watched John Elway lead the Broncos to victory over the Packers in Super Bowl 32. There wasn't a chance of my choice in NFL teams turning out any other way after that.
*editor's note: Is this a good time to watch 'The Helicopter' clip again? Yes, yes it is.