Chiefs-Broncos Matchups: Slowing Down Von Miller Key to Victory for Kansas City
The Chiefs own a seven-game winning streak against the Broncos, but in the last 14 games the series between the two clubs stands dead-even. Head coach Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City amidst a Denver dynasty in the AFC West, but since 2015 the fortunes have shifted toward the Chiefs. Can Kansas City extend the streak to eight games at Denver Thursday night? Here are the matchups to watch and keys to victory for Patrick Mahomes and company.
Matchups To Watch
Broncos LB Von Miller vs. Chiefs LT Cam Erving & RT Mitchell Schwartz
One of the leagues’ best pass rushers faces off against a backup left tackle, and an underrated right tackle. The Broncos game plan should focus on Miller terrorizing Erving’s side more often than not. The real question becomes at what point Reid and offensive line coach Andy Heck call for tight ends to chip Miller and help Erving get in position to protect Mahomes.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.
Harris ranks one of the top corners in the league and normally shadows the opponent’s top receiver. Last year the Broncos held Hill to 124 receiving yards and no touchdowns in the two contests against KC. With Sammy Watkins out, Demarcus Robinson’s production declining, Mecole Hardman still trying to a consistent role in the offense and Travis Kelce held in check the last two week, Hill needs to find a way to win this matchup regularly to help the Chiefs offense move the ball.
Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Broncos Physical Man Coverage
Kelce has been jammed, chipped, held and bullied all through his routes the last couple of weeks, and his frustration with the way he's being covered is starting to show on the field. He should use all that pent-up aggression and channel it into becoming the bully instead of the victim. His ability to beat man coverage relies solely on his will to out-physical the player across from him.
Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay & RB Royce Freeman vs. Chiefs Run Defense
Lindsay and Freeman form a two-headed monster in the rushing attack for the Broncos. Lindsay serves as the speedy, shifty back that looks to hit the hole fast, but he prefers to bounce everything either to the outside or the backside at the first sign of the initial hole closing. Freeman runs with good vision and can attack a hole, allowing linebackers to get lost in the trash while he cuts to an abandoned gap. The Chiefs' linebackers must bring their A-game and remain aggressive when trying to shut down this potent rushing attack.
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders & WR Courtland Sutton vs. Thin Chiefs Secondary
The Broncos ask Sanders to run shorter crossing and out-breaking routes, while Sutton provides more of a downfield threat. With Kansas City cornerback Kendall Fuller out with a thumb injury and Bashaud Breeland questionable for personal reasons, Charvarius Ward, Morris Claiborne, and rookie Rashad Fenton must shut these two receivers down. Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill could also play corner in a pinch if needed.
Keys To Victory
Be Yourself, Score Points
The Chiefs entered Week 5 against Indianapolis on an NFL-record streak of 25 consecutive regular-season games scoring more than 25 points. Now the Chiefs have a back-to-back games without scoring at least 25 points. With some of the defensive struggles, it's vital for Mahomes to get the offense back to its high scoring ways, forcing their opponents to abandon their game plans and try to win a shootout. The Broncos lack the firepower to win a high-scoring affair.
Take Pride In Stopping The Run
There are several key factors that go into a defense stopping the run. Gap responsibility, tackling and an aggressive mentality are just a few, but the most important is pride. The teams that play solid run defense have a personal stake in bottling up the running game. The individual players attack the run with a sense of urgency, taking any positive yards or chunk runs as a slap in the face and a shot at their masculinity. The Chiefs desperately lack this quality right now and need to accept the challenge of stopping the run game.
Beat Physical Man Coverage
The blueprint to slowing the Chiefs offense has been in full display the last two weeks. Defenses get physical with receivers, jamming them at the line, bumping them every chance they get, tugging at jerseys and pestering them throughout their routes. So far the receivers haven’t responded well, struggling to get open and make contested catches. The offensive players at some point need to get fed up with this style of play and dish out some physical punishment of their own. If they can’t beat physical man coverage, Mahomes will be in for a long night trying to escape the clutches of Miller and the Denver pass rush.
Force Joe Flacco Into Mistakes
Flacco is a game manager at the quarterback position at this stage in his career. The Broncos won’t ask him to win games for them with his arm or to serve as the triggerman in a high-flying offense. If the Chiefs' pass rush can get pressure on Flacco, he will make mistakes. He tends to drop the ball down low when trying to throw deeper passes, opening himself up to have the ball knocked out of his hands. He's also prone to throwing interceptions, averaging almost one per game this season.
Execute On Both Sides Of The Ball
University of Washington head coach Chris Petersen once said, "How you do small things is how you do all things." The little details make a difference in a football game, and they can be the difference between making the play or committing a mistake. The small things that have led to the breakdowns in the defense and the sudden rash of poor offensive play. Executing techniques taught since training camp and following through on the game plan down to the smallest detail set teams up for success. If Chiefs' players choose to take a play off or play hero ball, the trend toward mediocrity will continue.