The Denver Broncos did more than just beat the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team this weekend when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17. They proved that their winning ways are reliant on more than just Peyton Manning and a high-octane offense but a well-rounded team with a strong running game and a capable defense.
Prior to this weekend’s game with the Chiefs the Broncos’ used a fairly straight forward strategy – run up the score with Peyton Manning and let opposing offenses abandon their own game plan in order to keep up.
However, with Peyton Manning suffering a re-aggravated high ankle sprain and an extremely aggressive Chiefs defense coming into Denver, the Broncos successfully adjusted their high-flying offensive identity for a game and showed the NFL they are more than just a one-tick pony – all without the help of their recovering head coach John Fox.
For starters, running back Knowshon Moreno almost doubled his average number of carries per game with 27 against the Chiefs, and rookie Montee Ball was able to strongly contribute in the red zone. Thanks to their production the team was able to take a lot of pressure off of Manning and a struggling the offensive line. While Moreno finished the game with only 79 rushing yards, his physical running style forced the defense to respect his ability to gain first downs and focus less attention on blitzing Manning. Consequently, the Chiefs’ defense, which leads the league in sacks, did not record a single quarterback hit during the Broncos game.
Moreover, while loading the box to stop key runs the Broncos receivers were able to make big plays against one-on-one coverage – three receivers averaged over 14 yards per catch, including Demaryius Thomas who averaged an absurd 24 yards per reception.
The commitment to the running game also helped the Broncos’ young defense dominate. When the Broncos’ offense heavily relies on the passing game the team’s defense must face more aggressive offenses and more offensive snaps. But with a more possession oriented Broncos offense, like the one fans saw this weekend, the Chiefs’ opportunities offensive opportunities were greatly limited and the Broncos’ defense was able to force Alex Smith into a completion percentage of under 50 percent, hold the Chiefs to just 4-of-13 on third down, and most importantly hold the Chiefs to just 17 points – the lowest total the Broncos’ defense has held any team this season.
Ultimately this big divisional win for the Broncos demonstrated that despite their record-breaking success earlier this season they are continually growing and getting better through the development of their young players like Montee Ball, Julius Thomas, Danny Trevathan, Kavon Webster, and even Chris Clark. Their continued development has made this team more playoff ready than they were last year when they lost in the divisional round to the Baltimore Ravens.
With two important games coming up in Foxboro and Kansas City, the team must learn from this win and lean more heavily on their running game and defense. Not only does this strategy help keep Peyton Manning upright and healthy, but it also makes the Broncos’ offense more diverse and ultimately harder to game plan against. With continued production out of the running game and defense, the Broncos are clearly the team to beat in the NFL.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.