Now that the Broncos Chiefs game is relevant, and this game decides the current leader in the AFC West, it’s time for Denver to get serious about putting together consistently good performances on both offense and defense (as if it weren’t ALWAYS time for that).
And the guys at Broncos Country Tonight are trying to figure out how to do that.
Hall-of-Fame safety Steve Atwater wants Denver to come in with the same mindset it had for the Cowboys and Chargers, but obviously it takes more than just a mentality to beat the Chiefs.
“I go back and forth between sticking to the run against the Kansas City Chiefs defense because our offense has to put some points up,” Atwater told hosts Ryan Edwards and Benjamin Allbright.
Edwards pointed out that the Broncos need to dictate the way the game goes - its offense needs to keep the ball for longer drives and its defense needs to force the Chiefs into having to play those sustained drives too.
And having long, sustained offensive drives for the Broncos would certainly meaning leaning into the run game as much as possible.
“The Broncos want to be that kind of [dink and dunk] offense,” Edwards added. “The Chiefs are not that kind and it frustrates them to be on the field that long without taking shots downfield. Make them work for everything they get.”
The problem is the multiple ways that offense can work - whether it’s the bomb to Tyreek Hill ,over the middle underneath for a bunch of yac to Travis Kelce, or 100 yards on the ground from Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
“I like it, but it’s easier said than done,” Atwater said about handling the Chiefs’ offense. “Everybody wants to make them dink and dunk. But once Tyreek Hill gets on ya??? Oh man.”
Points per possession on non-kneeldown drives over the last five games:— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 1, 2021
Kansas City: 1.92
So the offense is going to have to do its part for sure to score points, but a lot is going to be on the defense to keep Patrick Mahomes and his weapons in check.
In fact, Allbright is all for “giving them the underneath” and then letting the Broncos famous “bend-don’t-break” defense go to work in the red zone.
“The offense has to possess the ball for lengthy drives. Give [the Chiefs] the underneath. Let them dink and dunk you to death until you get to the red zone and then clamp down,” Allbright said. “Let KC take time off the clock while you’re also taking time off the clock. Shorten it to a one-possession game.”
One of the main ways that is going to happen is keeping pressure on Mahomes.
“If we can be as effective in terms of getting pressure with only four as we were against the Chargers, we got a great chance of beating anybody,” Atwater said. “If you can make the quarterback feel like ‘hey, we’re getting close and you better pass that ball or we’re going to sack you,’ then come on, man. The world is yours.”
With no Von Miller that task is infinitely harder - especially with a mobile quarterback like Mahomes - but Bradley Chubb will be closer to full speed and should be able to cause some trouble for Mahomes along with Malik Reed, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Purcell.
But then it will come down to the linebackers and secondary to keep their defense from “breaking.”
In fact, Barron Browning played so well against the Chargers, Allbright wouldn’t mind seeing him cover Kelce.
Atwater wouldn’t mind seeing that, but he thinks Browning will be more important for stopping the run.
“He’s got really good speed; that could be a nice battle,” Atwater said, adding he’s always wanted to see a fast linebacker man-up on a tight end and press him. “I know he has the speed and athletic ability, but they probably need him to focus on the run. ...I would just like to see someone challenge [Kelce].”
It’s possible Pat Surtain II - who just earned Defensive Player of the Week - could be covering Kelce too.
“He’s got the size to where he can press guys and the speed to keep up with them. And the quickness too to stop and go, and make the quick turn with the hips. He’s a rare breed ... such a good corner, but he could do a heck of a job against Travis Kelce.”
After big-time performances from Surtain and Caden Sterns last week, there’s hope this defense can actually put some fear into the KC offense.
“Caden’s not playing like a backup player. He’s playing like a starter and it’s great to see,” Atwater said. “I know the coaches love it. He’s not out just trying to do his own thing. He’s put a lot of time into watching film and being in the right place. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
And with Surtain, Atwater pointed out he’s “just never in the wrong place.” And never being in the wrong place is definitely going to be key on Sunday.
“He’s always in the right place, always right there,” Atwater said. “He’s got great eyes, looking at the right thing prior to the play starting, focusing on what he needs to be focused on, and then when the big time comes up, he’s making the big plays. He’s making those catches and he’s not dropping them. And man, he looked like a deer running down that sidelines. Wooh! It was a beautiful sight.”