Broncos players and coaches talked up the 1-9 Kansas City Chiefs prior to meeting them at Arrowhead Stadium yesterday, as they stressed in post-game interviews following a 17-9 victory. But anyone who sat through the brutally ugly contest knows better. It was clear from the earliest moments that Denver hadn't taken KC seriously, or at least not seriously enough.
Indeed, the main reason the Broncos emerged with yet another W (their sixth in a row) was the bone-deep mediocrity of the Chiefs offense, led by none other than former Denver pretty boy Brady Quinn.
On the Chiefs first play from scrimmage, running back Jamal Charles (a man who'd be a star on plenty of other, better squads) slashed for six yards -- the first of many successful bursts en route to a 100-yard-plus performance. And he wasn't alone. Everyone from Shaun Draughn to Dexter McCluster made positive plays as KC drove deep into the Broncos' territory. Only the Chiefs' lack of confidence in Quinn -- on a key third down, the staff called on Peyton Hilles (another Josh McDaniels-era Broncos cast-off) to throw the ball to Quinn, rather than the other way around -- allowed Denver to escape with just a three-point deficit.
The Broncos' answer to that embarrassment? A couple of desultory plays to Knowshon Moreno -- promoted to starter due to Willis McGahee's injury -- that resulted in an overall loss of yardage, followed by a near-interception when Brandon Stokley was mugged by Javier Arenas on the way to the ground.
And so it went for much of the first half. The Chiefs continued to run the ball well even though anyone with a functioning brain stem understood that's precisely what they planned to do, chewing up clock and keeping quarterback Peyton Manning off the field in the process. Moreover, the Chiefs' offensive line managed to all but nullify sack monster Von Miller via consistent double-teaming -- and the Broncos' failure to adjust meant Quinn had plenty of time to throw whenever he was directed to do so. Had he been even semi-competent, he would have made Denver pay, and pay big, for this lack of pressure.
Meanwhile, the Broncos' offense limped along, with Manning victimized by several dropped passes and some uncharacteristically poor decisions -- like a heave to a blanketed Eric Decker that resulted in an easy Brandon Flowers pick. And even when the O got into scoring position, the typically reliable Matt Prater acted as if his brain was on Shotgun Willie's, missing two consecutive kicks of the sort he'd drill 99 percent of the time.
Given all that, how in the hell did the Broncos win?
Continue to read more about the Broncos-Chiefs game and to see three videos. The formula entailed keeping the Chiefs out of the end zone -- with a big assist from Quinn -- and cobbling together two touchdown drives. In the first, Manning supplemented some decent runs by Moreno (who had a surprisingly productive game marred only by some unnecessary showboating) with a big strike to Stokley and a key completion to Jacob Tamme, who pushed the ball over the goal line by sheer determination. In the second, yardage by Moreno and Ronnie Hillman set up one deep ball that worked -- a thirty yarder to Demaryius Thomas of the sort most fans expected to see several times on Sunday, not just once.
These scores, plus a late boot by Prater that still didn't make up for his earlier misfires, proved to be enough to beat the Chiefs -- but very few others. If Denver lays this kind of egg in its next game, against the resurgent Tampa Bay Bucs, the current streak will be over in a heartbeat. Here's hoping everyone involved realizes that, and does something about it.
Look below to see three videos: a locker-room interview with Moreno, an ESPN analysis featuring Cris Carter and a CBS Sports feature on Miller and other key defenders, none of whom showered themselves in glory on Sunday.
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