Round 1 is in the books with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos coming out as the clear winners over the Kansas City Chiefs with a 27-17 victory.
Luckily for Andy Reid’s squad, they won’t need to wait long before they get a shot at the Broncos again. That rematch comes in two weeks when Manning will need to try and work his magic in front of a ferocious Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
As it is, the Chiefs defense held the Denver offense to a season low in points and limited Manning to just one touchdown in the air. The league’s No. 1 defense couldn’t, however, rough up Manning… or even touch him, for that matter.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback was barely knocked down, allowing him to escape Sunday night without re-aggravating his gimpy right ankle.
Still, as the Kansas City players and coaches sit down to try and regroup, they’ll have to come to grips with the troubles on offense. Despite two weeks to prepare a game plan, somehow they were unable to find a way to get their biggest weapon, RB Jamaal Charles, out in space.
They’ll also kick themselves for not taking SOME risks. Yes, this team won nine games by being conservative but with the Broncos in control they could have picked there spots to try and steal the momentum.
The first was just before halftime when Reid was going to attempt a 64-yard field goal with Ryan Succop. Instead he changed his mind when the Broncos put a return man deep and opted for a final play that ended with a Smith scramble that never had a chance to put points on the board.
It was a kick that, even at altitude, wasn’t likely to be made. But why wouldn’t you roll the dice and maybe cut the Broncos lead to four points?
Then there’s the decision to punt the ball back to Manning with 11:58 minutes left in the game and the Chiefs down by two touchdowns. They were on the Broncos 41-yard line and needed seven yards for a first down. Instead Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt put the ball in the end zone, netting a whopping 21 yards.
Manning responded to the gift by marching down the field and putting the game away with a field goal.
Now it’s the Chiefs turn to respond. First against the San Diego Chargers next week, then the big rematch in two weeks. But before we move on to Week 12 and beyond, here’s a look at the players that stood out Sunday night.
Offense: Jamaal Charles
The Chiefs couldn’t afford to lean on Charles they way they had up until the bye week, but I don’t know that this is the way to give his body a break.
Charles had trouble getting into a rhythm, but he still turned in his longest run of the season. Instead of sticking with their most explosive player, Reid decided to leave him with a season-low 18 touches.
For the first time this season the Chiefs opened up the play book and took consistent shots down the field. Instead of using Charles to open things up for QB Alex Smith, he was left on the sidelines more than he has all season.
When these two teams meet again in two weeks, it’s safe to assume Charles will easily surpass 20 carries.
Defense: Dontari Poe
In order for the Chiefs defense to try and keep Manning in check, they were going to need to keep more defensive backs than normal on the field for most of the game. That plan could backfire if you start getting gashed by the running game.
Thanks to Poe owning the line of scrimmage, Denver didn’t have any plays on the ground longer than 11 yards. All told, the Broncos averaged just 2.9 yards on 36 carries.
Unfortunately getting the job done inside wasn’t enough to free up linebackers Tamba Hali or Justin Houston, but that should change when the Broncos come calling to Arrowhead. In addition to Poe being able to overpower the Denver lineman, he’ll have the crowd getting in the way of communication.
Special Teams: Ryan Succop
To pull off an upset, the Chiefs probably needed to turn in a big play on special teams. They weren’t able to do that and Dave Toub’s unit had a ho hum night.
Dustin Colquitt was easily out dueled by his brother and there wasn’t one return that put pressure on the Broncos coverage teams. But Succop did all that was asked of him. He made his only field goal, both extra points and allowed kick returner Trindon Holliday just one kick return.
Of course we’ll never know if Succop could have helped the Chiefs turn the tide with a 64-yard field goal at the end of the half since Reid didn’t allow him to take a shot.