One major critique of the Kansas City Chiefs in their Week 11 17-27 on-the-road loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos was the fact that they didn’t employ their pass rush, as they’ve been known to do, very well this season. The Chiefs currently share first place with the Broncos in the AFC West, and though no longer claiming the bragging rights to the title of the only undefeated team in the NFL after the loss to Denver, they’re not done yet. They face another division rival, Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers, in Kansas City on Sunday, and then meet the Broncos again the following week, also at Arrowhead.
Manning had been sacked eight times in Denver’s previous three games, and so, where was the Chiefs’ defense? They had led the league in sacks going into that game. We all expected Kansas City to apply heavy pressure on Manning in Denver, but we were left disappointed.
So, how did the Chiefs manage to go the entire game without so much as making Manning sweat? And what will this mean as the Chiefs go up against the Chargers?
Manning did a stellar job of firing off the ball consistently and quickly (2.18 seconds per pass attempt). He was also in the Pistol or Shotgun formation in the vast majority of his 40 drop backs, and he got the ball out much faster than in most of his previous games. This obviously made it more difficult for the Chiefs’ defense to get a hold of him.
It seemed Manning and his offensive line were watching specifically for Chiefs linebackers Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson, and maneuvered appropriately and quickly.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid acknowledged Manning’s speed and agility as one of the thorns in his team’s side, also commenting on how well Manning worked the pocket, observing that when the pressure had been on, the Denver quarterback was able to easily “slide and throw opposite.” Not an easy feat for anyone, but it was certainly effective against the Chiefs’ defense.
The Chiefs are favored by some five points in their matchup with San Diego (for the first time in some 10 years), and fortunately for Kansas City, Rivers and his fellow Chargers are no Broncos.
It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Chiefs make for Sunday’s game.