The more I’ve dug into this upcoming divisional game with the Kansas City Chiefs, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that it will be the toughest test for the Fangio Broncos in 2019. The offseason additions have helped Steve Spagnuolo turn the pass defense into a borderline elite unit while Patrick Mahomes and his weapons should all suit up.
It won’t be easy, but I wanted to get as much information as I could before kickoff. To get some insight, I reached out to Arrowhead Pride and Tom Childs shared what he could with me. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
1st and 10
It looks like the Chiefs defense has really rounded into form since the Packer game, especially the pass defense. What’s changed since the last time these two teams have played each other?
Childs: The signs of improvement began to show in Denver and against Minnesota, yet it has always felt like two steps forward, then one step back. After the disaster of the Titans collapse, it felt like more of the same old, same old. However, something clicked in Mexico, and the Chiefs have been cooking with gas ever since.
Now we can argue that the opponents (Philip Rivers in crunch time, Derek Carr in Arrowhead and old Tom Brady) have not been the most challenging, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at dominant defensive displays regardless of the opponent.
The big money signings are starting to pay off. Frank Clark has been a lot better than people are giving him credit for, while Tyrann Mathieu is playing like an All-Pro. Their turnaround, along with the team fully embracing the scheme, is having an enormous impact on both results and performance. The Chiefs finally have a dependable defense. Better late than never.
Since Week 11, the #Chiefs have the best safety group in the NFL— PFF KC Chiefs (@PFF_Chiefs) December 4, 2019
Among S w/ 75+ snaps, Weeks 11-13
• Tyrann Mathieu: 90.0, T-1st
• Daniel Sorensen: 83.5, 5th
• Juan Thornhill: 77.2, 9th
: Denny Medley and Kirby Lee, USA Today#ChiefsKingdom https://t.co/eQoKvEmIss pic.twitter.com/EhTdOpB33i
2nd and 7
What all do you expect Steve Spagnuolo to throw at the Broncos offense and especially Drew Lock?
Childs: The key in this matchup is stuffing first and second down runs. If (and it’s a big if) the Chiefs defensive line can hold out against Phillip Lindsay & Co, Steve Spagnuolo will be in his happy place.
Last week against the Patriots, the Chiefs were excellent on third down, only allowing the Patriots to convert 2 of 12. How did they manage this? By sending pressure, knowing that the defensive backs can hold up against New England’s limited receivers. Obviously, there’s a bit more to fear in Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant than the broken and gimmicky Patriots’ offense, but that won’t stop Spagnuolo from throwing out some exotic blitzes and coverages at the young rookie. There’s a real chance this will be the former Mizzou quarterback’s “Welcome to the NFL” game.
3rd and 3
How do you expect Mahomes and Reid to attack the Fangio defense?
Childs: It’s gone slightly under the radar nationally, but the Chiefs offense is broken.
I'm begging you offense. Get 2018 hot for just 7 games, please. https://t.co/p2L3jQWvgb— Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) December 12, 2019
Before I go on, we should take that statement with a grain of salt. After all, the team still ranks fourth in scoring, even with all of the injuries. The problem is that we have become so accustomed to a Mahomes led offense torching teams, that when we hit a drought, we immediately worry.
Part of the reason is health, part of it is the scheme, but I think it mostly has to do with getting away from what worked well last year. I would love to see the Chiefs throw in the pre-snap motions and trickery that was so prevalent in the success of the 2018 offense.
There’s not a sight scarier in the NFL for opposing defenses than Hill running a jet sweep or orbit motion. If I were Reid, I would immediately install these back into the offense and try to confuse the Broncos. In previous games against the Broncos, the Chiefs have not been scared to target Von Miller, especially with Tyreek Hill in motion. More of the same, please.
The one thing I do want the Chiefs to avoid is picking on Chris Harris to the point that he could be upset or offended. It wouldn’t exactly be the best way to treat the CB1 of the Chiefs’ 2020 defense, would it?
4th and inches
Paint me a picture as to how the Broncos can upset the Chiefs, how could it happen?
Childs: Run, run, run, trust analytics, then run again. I do not know why teams are not running at the Chiefs 75% of the time. For all of the improvements on defense, the Chiefs still rank 30th against the run.
Chances are, if the Broncos run the ball on first, second and sometimes third down, they will be left with a manageable third or fourth-down conversion. We’ve seen what happens when the Broncos O-line tries to pass protect against the Chiefs, and it wasn’t pretty. Do the Broncos really want to subject their shiny new quarterback to that risk?
The Joe Flacco error in one play. pic.twitter.com/WkMCI6Zard— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 18, 2019
Even if the Broncos do turn the ball over on downs once or twice a game, there is enough evidence out there that the Chiefs offense can be stopped. Remember, this is not the 2018 team. Giving the ball to Patrick Mahomes does not spell the disaster it once did.
Vic Fangio, if you trust the defense and the run game, then the Broncos may just walk out of Arrowhead with a W.
Who will win?
This poll is closed
Broncos by a lot.
Broncos by a little.
Chiefs by a lot.
Chiefs by a little.