Well, Broncos Country, we have reached Week 13 - the game many of us circled on our calendars as “the toughest game on the schedule” - and it’s not looking any easier. If anything, it’s probably looking a little tougher as Patrick Mahomes & Co. are really fine-tuning their chemistry while Drew Lock & Co. are trying to stay on the field together more than just two games in a row.
But last week’s debacle is behind us and Lock probably feels like he has a lot to prove because of it, so the setting could be right for a big fight from the Broncos. And honestly, that’s what we all hope for - just compete. Go out there and sustain drives to score when you’re in the red zone, pressure Mahomes a little and keep the Chiefs honest.
Which is exactly what Aehdan, our ultimate fan, is predicting. And like a true fan - and one after my own heart who can’t pick against the Broncos - he’s going for the upset win in Arrowhead. Vegas, be damned...and I love it!
Week 13: Broncos at Chiefs
MHR - Just to get it out of the way, what are your personal thoughts/feelings about the Broncos’ loss to the Saints last week in what was obviously a completely unfair fight?
Aehdan: It was absurd. But it was also what I thought the NFL should have done from Week 1. I felt the fair rule would be, “You have a game at this date and this time. If your player is unable to play, then you need another player.” What really bothers me is that since the NFL has refused to have a hard and fast rule, the Broncos were the only team so far treated this way. For reasons of player safety, I would say the team can simply forfeit the game and that franchise then loses the equivalent revenue loss for the missed broadcast. Make it hurt in the pocketbook, and owners will be all over making sure players are not messing around.
MHR - Now to what was always going to be the Broncos’ hardest game - playing the former SB champs at their home stadium. Even without a huge home crowd, this will be tough. Vegas has the spread at 13.5-point favorites for Kansas City...can the Broncos at least beat that? Can they win?
Aehdan: Sure, they could win. It’s the NFL. Stuff happens that shocks everyone on a weekly basis. The problem for the Broncos will be the lack of enough coverage options to keep KC’s skill players in check and a very young offense that still is learning the game being unable to keep up. With that being said, the Broncos have the talent to do it. It’s entirely possible that Mahomes throws a bad pick or two with Parks back and Simmons being Simmons. A.J. Bouyé is respectable at covering Travis Kelcie and whoever swings out of the backfield. Add with the lack of a crowd in KC, the offence has a real chance to run with the Chiefs. If the offense manages to show something, we at least will cover that spread.
MHR - In the last outing, the Broncos’ defense actually contained Mahomes and the receivers quite well. The defensive line has been gelling lately and Shelby Harris could be back. But the secondary will be without Bryce Callahan. Can the defense essentially limit Mahomes again?
Aehdan: Yes. Mostly because Fangio is freaking brilliant at using his defensive pieces effectively. It’s one of the great skills that Wade Phillips had that he doesn’t try to force players to be something they are not. Hill is the main piece that I worry about as I don’t think we can slow him as easily. I do think that we see a lot of zone/pattern setups where the players know where to be and it makes it at least possible for our team to do something.
MHR - The group the Denver defense didn’t stop in the last matchup was the running back crew. Will they be able to stop Le’Veon Bell and Clyde Edwards-Hellaire this weekend?
Aehdan: No. And that isn’t a knock on the front seven, it’s how the scheme works well. I think we see less of an air show from the Chiefs than everyone likes to talk about and more of a old-fashioned running game. The Broncos are so light up front and the Chiefs have that Reid guy who actually understands how all the parts of an offence work together that even a 60/40 split favoring running would not be impossible.
MHR - The defense has been consistently good this season but as we saw again last week, it can’t dominate if the offense doesn’t give it some help by staying on the field and scoring some points. How much of the Broncos’ offense playing well is an issue for how much damage the defense can do to Mahomes & Co. on Sunday night?
Aehdan: The offense has to at least run enough plays that the defense gets a chance to watch. It’s an old adage, but it’s very true. While I think the Chiefs likely have a lot of success running, they are still a quick strike offense early - in the mold of the Broncos’ Super Bowl teams of the 90s. They strike early and hard then beat the heck out of you once you are down a couple TDs. If KC manages to get an early score and our offense cannot put together a drive to keep the defense off the field, it’s likely “game over” very early on.
MHR - Now that we’re talking about the offense, a lot has been said about Drew Lock’s inability to pick up the blitz. The Chiefs got him on that multiple times in Week 7 and seemed to cause Brady some trouble last week too, hitting him 8 times. What does Lock - and Shurmur - need to do to play the pressure better?
Aehdan: Read what is in front of you and change protections and the play when it makes sense. After the Miami game, I heard Fangio state something about allowing Lock more freedom to change plays. The context was around why he looked more comfortable and it was just a brief question that didn’t seem to show up much in the press, but the gist was that they asked and Lock felt he needed to be allowed to change things more. I am not sure if Shumur is that kind of coach, but it seems he may be, where because of the inexperience, he was telling Lock exactly what to do in his headset and making him snap it before the mic was cut off. Against Miami, we had some later snaps and it seemed like Lock was changing things more. I will be interested to see if that repeats itself in KC.
Ready for a division battle in prime time.#BeatTheChiefs— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 5, 2020
MHR - Let’s spend some time on Lock...what are your overall thoughts about him. Has he been getting a little better over the season in your opinion, staying about where he was or regressing? What do we need to see from him, not just against the Chiefs but the final five games of the season?
Aehdan: I have no idea. And I mean that with all honesty. Lock seems like the right kind of person to actually be improving, even if the results are not there, but there have been so many moments of awful. Against Miami, I thought he looked like he was making better decisions and in general seemed comfortable. And I think that is because Shumur allowed him the freedom to screw up. In my personal life I am a manager. And a big part of my success is letting the people I manage know that they need to be who they are. I will set the guidelines, I will help coach them, but ultimately they need to be themselves. I don’t think Shumur was doing that for Lock because I don’t think Lock made Shumur feel comfortable with his ability to be himself and be successful. For the rest of the season what I want to see is a QB who is making decisions rather than what has looked like a player desperately trying to fit what the coach is telling him to be.
MHR - How much of a factor will the running game need to be (again), and do you think it can do it?
Aehdan: With a young QB and O-Line, it is critical. I think it can, but we need to do the right steps and have a good game plan for running rather than some of the crap that has occurred. Get the players moving and pulling to create issues.
MHR - Noah Fant said earlier this week that he wants to be the answer more often on third downs. Do you agree? Why are we so bad at using the guys who seem to provide the most production even with limited opportunities (cough, Lindsay, cough)?
Aehdan: My guess is that comes back to the coaches. The more I think about Shumur, the more I believe he wants to feel in control and have players fit what he wants rather than what they are good at. I hated the Melvin Gordon signing because to me it was a waste of money, and it signaled Shumur was looking for something different from our running backs. Fant is a good TE, and I think he will become a better option on every down, not just third. And that may be the issue. I always thought that offenses should be focused more on pushing the attack every single down. That does mean sometimes you run on first and second. It also means you pass on those downs too, looking for ways to advance. You also run on third because then it makes play action more legit and you can mess with the opponents pass rush. I would actually prefer to see Fant used more on first and second as a big target for some easy three- to six-yard completions to keep things rolling that he may be able to turn into bigger plays.
MHR - Earlier this week there were some rumblings about the ownership debacle for the Broncos. Where do you stand on that - should it be Brittany? Should it be Beth? Should Joe Ellis find a buyer? What is best for the franchise?
Aehdan:I have been a fan of it being Beth for a while. I hated the idea of the Trust and felt that was a failure to plan. Even if the Trust needed to exist, have it be in place with the heir in place as well and let them be a part of it. I think that the Trust only made Brittany a possibility to allow them to stay in place longer, and it is just stupid.
MHR - The offensive line has been getting much better - even with injuries - and they’ve been led by none other than Garett Bolles. What do you think of No. 72’s turnaround this season? How have you felt about the O-line overall?
Aehdan: Complete and total shock about Bolles. I love it too. I think something for him clicked. I think the O-Line overall is about what I expected. With a rookie center and a second-year guard, they have made major mistakes. Injuries are not a surprise either and the fact that the Broncos depth is crap has been on display this season. I hate not seeing more mid and late round picks on lottery tickets for the line over the last 5 years or so.
MHR - Name a player on offense and defense that has really stood out to you so far this season and why.
Aehdan: Defense - Bryce Callahan I thought he would be a solid player, but he really fits Fangio’s scheme so well. I love watching good coverage by DBs.
Offense - KJ Hamler. I thought he would be a gadget guy for us and maybe see a few snaps, but I have been shocked to notice his route running is quite good. I think Jeudy was a good pick, but Hamler may end up being a steal.
#Broncos Jeudy ranks fourth among rookies in receiving yards (589, last week obviously hurt his season projection), and he and KJ Hamler are only two rookie teammates with at least 25 catches this season. So there are slivers of sunshine. These two are really talented. #Denver7 pic.twitter.com/hmDrhd7e3c— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) December 4, 2020
Stats for Drew Lock? 15-28, 195 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Stats for each Broncos RB? Gordon 16-41, 1 TD and a fumble.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos’ receiver? Fant 3-73, 1 TD; Jeudy 5-29; Hamler, 2-48; Vannet, 4-30
Longest FG for McManus? 36 yards
Number of sacks to Lock? 4
Number of sacks to Mahomes? Zero, but a ton of pressures
Broncos player with the most tackles? Alexander Johnson
Who gets the most sacks? Frank Clark and Chris Jones with 2 each. Chubb has 10 pressures on the day
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1/2/0
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? None, oddly the refs seem pretty good this year.
Final Score? 32-31 Broncos. I cannot pick against them.
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl XXXII, watched it with my best friend who is a Raiders fan and loved every minute of it.
Team you hate to lose to the most? Raiders
Non AFC West team you hate to lose to the most? NY Jets. They always just seem to be a crap franchise so losing to them sucks.
Team you love to beat? Patriots.
Favorite time Broncos were the underdog and won? SB XXXII
Favorite game looking forward to this season? San Diego at home because it was one I went to. I was able to take three of my four kids, and it was amazing.
Toughest game on the schedule? This one. KC on the road is going to be rough
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Risner. I love that he is a Colorado Kid and I have always appreciated offensive linemen
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Elway
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Hamler, I think he may end up being the better pick
Superstitions on game day? Elway Jersey goes on an hour before the game and comes off right after if we lose, stays on if we win.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Cris Collinsworth right now. In the past though it was Dierdorf who was somehow worse at describing exactly what he saw in front of him than Collinsworth.
Favorite sports cliche? Sometimes you do everything right and still lose
Favorite sports movie? “A League of Their Own” [*editor’s note: Aehdan didn’t choose a gif, so I chose one for him because this is one of my favorite lines ever from a movie!]
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I was born into it. My parents were Broncos Fans. My grandparents were Broncos fans. My great uncle was an original season ticket holder who passed them to my dad and then to me. There are pictures of me in Broncos gear as an infant.
Chiefs are 14-point favorites, which seems like not very much. Can the Broncos beat the spread?
This poll is closed
Beat the spread???? The Broncos are going to beat the Chiefs!
Sure, why not?
No way (p.s. I’m a Chiefs fan)