The Denver Broncos’ 2021 season is puttering to a finish after their third straight loss. With all hopes at a postseason bid long dead and questions about job security looming over Dove Valley like a dark cloud, the Broncos will play host to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Denver hasn’t beaten Kansas City since Peyton Manning’s last ride, a comeback win in week 2 when he threw for 256 yards and 3 TDs. Most of the games since haven’t been competitive, if we’re being honest. Earlier this season Teddy Bridgewater completed just over half his passes as he threw two picks in a 22-9 drubbing that never looked that close. This time around Kansas City will enter the regular season finale needing a win and Titans loss to secure the No.1 seed, while the Broncos only just placed Dalton Risner, Kareem Jackson, and Bridgewater on Injured Reserve.
Do the Broncos stand a chance?
To find out, I spoke with KC Sports Network’s Matt Lane on this week’s Cover2Broncos. What follows is a brief overview of our discussion, as well as some background notes.
Chiefs’ offense vs Broncos’ defense
- Since the last matchup, Patrick Mahomes has completed 73% of his passes for 1185 yards, 10 TDs, 1 Interception, and 6 sacks.
- Is it safe to say he’s back?
- Among the scariest parts of the KC offense is how Reid puts teams in conflict as they try to defend both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. In the past we’ve seen a good bit of is 3X1 sets with Hill inside and Kelce alone, as it can serve as a way to isolate linebackers and also causes problems for deep crossers. Will that continue? Is there anything Denver can do against this?
- After the big 2, who do you expect to give the Broncos the most issues?
- The Chiefs had a huge game on the ground against the Bengals but have mostly struggled on running the ball this year. Meanwhile the Broncos have struggled to stop the run all season.
- From the left B gap to the right C gap, the Broncos are one of the 3 worst run defenses in football by Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards.
Opponents run in these gaps on 68.5% of their rushes against Denver
Will Andy Reid?
- Can Fangio stop Reid in the Redzone?
- On the season KC has struggled in the redzone. The Broncos have one of the best scoring defenses in the league, but rank 17th in redzone DVOA.
- KC screen game is one of, if not the best in the NFL. Reid is a magician.
Broncos’ offense vs Chiefs’ defense
- If the Broncos want to compete in these game the blueprint looks obvious: stay on schedule with a heavy mix of the run game and quick game to mitigate the risk of Jones causing a game changing play against backup iOL or Spags baiting Lock into mistakes. Chiefs know this.
- The Chiefs are currently the best team in football against WR3s. What will Spags do to erase Jerry Jeudy?
- The Chiefs defense is a lot better than their season long stats suggest because the improvements been so stark over the last half of the year.
- Chris Jones is the best interior defender outside of Aaron Donald, and the Broncos will not have Graham Glasgow or Dalton Risner against the Chiefs. Jones could completely ruin the game for Denver.
- Who else stands out?
Melvin Ingram - Is a huge matchup problem for the Broncos iOL and Spags will cuts him loose inside. He’s generating pressure on 12.3% of his pass rush snaps this season by Sports Info Solutions charting.
Tyrann Mathieu - By SIS charting, QBs have completed 46.7% of their attempts in his direction. He has 6 pass breakups, 3 Ints. He’s generating pressure on 40.7% of his pass rush snaps this year and he’s rushed 28 times.
Charvarius Ward - QBs have completed 44.1% of their attempts in his direction this year by SIS charting. Has 3 dropped interceptions.
- One matchup that looks favorable for the Broncos is their tight ends against the second level defenders on the Chiefs. Fant and Okwuegbunam have the size/speed combination that is going to present issues for Nick Bolton and Anthony Hitchens.
- Spags defense is built around getting ahead of the sticks so he can rain hell on third downs. Will Drew Lock help or hurt the Broncos efforts to avoid passing downs?
- The first time the Broncos went 4/14 on third down and 3/6 on fourth down.
- On first down Lock went 11-of-12 for 198 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. On all other downs, he went 7-of-13 for 47 yards with one sack and only three conversions.
- The game in Kansas City was the first time Javonte Williams received more than 20 carries in the NFL, and the Chiefs had a ton of trouble stopping both Pookie and Mike Boone. This time around Denver will be without Dalton Risner, who is the instrumental part of their best rushing concepts as a lead puller.
Since Drew Lock took over as the starting quarterback Javonte Williams has carried the ball 21 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. Melvin Gordon’s rushed 17 times for 39 yards over the same time frame.
Will Lock playing for Bridgewater impact how the Chiefs play the run this time around?
- The Broncos play roughly 90% of their snaps out of 11 or 12 personnel. They went TE heavy out of necessity lask week with Jeudy and Patrick on Covid reserve, but typically play a handful of heavier snaps (13,21,22)
- Broncos have a ton of issues with allowing stuffs, but they’re good in power situations and a top 5 rushing team at the second and third level. If they can get Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon past the LOS they could be running for awhile.
- Both Brandon McManus and Sam Martin are in Covid Reserve after testing positive on Monday. As I write this, there’s been no attempt to bring in any replacements as the Broncos expect them both to return for the game under the new Covid rules that allow a player to return after 5 days.
- McManus was a college punter at Temple and Sam Martin has experience as a place kicker from his time at Appalachian State. With nothing to lose the risk of just one returning is pretty minimal, though it could certainly cause Fangio to go for it more on 4th down.
- For as competent as McManus and Martin have been all year to this point, the Broncos special teams are atrocious and have been since John Elway hired Tom McMahon in 2018. The gaffes are glaring.
- A leverage penalty on Dre’Mont Jones helped to cost them the Steelers game. They’ve allowed a field goal block and multiple punt blocks. They gave up a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown to Jamal Agnew in week 2 and Andre Roberts burned them for 101 last week. They also gave up a 44-yard punt return against Devin Duvernay back in week 4. Meanwhile Diontae Spencer’s muffed a punt against Kansas City and the Chargers.
- KC has one of the very best special teams in football by the numbers. They’re particularly good with kickoff and punt coverage. They’ve had issues returning kicks, however. Is there any way Denver can capitalize on this?