Monday night in Kansas City will be Denver’s toughest test of the season. After getting embarrassed in two consecutive weeks, the Broncos find themselves in an October nightmare with their season hanging in the balance. A loss on Monday and Denver could find themselves in the basement of the AFC west. The odds are stacked against the Broncos, but despite all the doom and gloom Denver has an opportunity to get right back in the mix. Here are this week’s keys to beating the Chiefs and getting their season back on track.
1st Down: Free Jamaal Charles
On Monday night Broncos’ running back Jamaal Charles will make his first trip back to the place where he cemented himself among the Chiefs’ all-time greats. In his homecoming, it’s time for Denver to unleash the former Chief.
In order to preserve the veteran, Charles was held back for much of training camp and all of the preseason. The lack of usage has carried over through the first half of the season. Charles enters Monday averaging just over eight touches per game. Charles has taken his limited opportunities into a team leading 4.7 yards per carry. For Denver, it’s paramount in helping Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian to get Charles more involved especially in the passing game. While the Broncos’ offense remains on life support, an extra-motivated Charles can be the charge that brings a certain mojo back to this offense.
2nd Down: Don’t give up the big one
The Chiefs have no shortage of weapons and Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid knows just how to use them. In particular, Reid deploys wide receiver Tyreek Hill all over the field making defenses keep an eye on him at all times. Every defense has known that Hill has the ability to take the top off of the defense on any play, yet he’s continued to do so. Hill currently sits at fifth in the league in total receiving yards (515) including two receiving touchdowns over 60 yards and one in the punt return game.
The Broncos know about Hill all too well. In the team’s two meetings a year ago, Hill shredded Denver for a combined two rushing touchdowns, one receiving, and one kickoff return for a score. Miscommunications were a problem for the Broncos’ secondary early in the season. On Monday night, the Chiefs could turn one breakdown in coverage into a game changing play.
3rd Down: Contain Kareem Hunt
In his 12th season, Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith is playing the best football of his career. Smith has thrown for 15 touchdowns and no interceptions all the while completing over 72 percent of his passes. Some of Smith’s success may be contributed to the emergence of rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Reid runs his entire offense through the rookie. Hunt currently leads the league in rushing with 717 yards. Kansas City is also undefeated when Hunt goes for over 100 yards.
Despite losing two straight, Denver still holds the leagues’ top-rushing defense. That defense could take a hit if linebacker Todd Davis (ankle) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (foot/hand) can’t go Monday. If the Broncos are able to make the Chiefs one dimensional, that could open the door for Von Miller and Shane Ray to make their own game changing plays.
4th Down: Take care of the football
After getting shut out for the first time since 1992, the sense of urgency should be at a season high to start the game. The Broncos’ offense enters Monday night with just one first half touchdown in the month of October. Starting fast would certainly help the confidence level of the offense but at the end of the day it all comes down to taking care of the football. It starts with Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Turnovers will kill you and they have dismantled Denver. The Broncos’ starter has turned the football over 12 times in six games. If the protection is not there, it’s critical that Siemian doesn’t try to play outside of his skill set. Many of Siemian’s mistakes occur when the young quarterback floats in and out of the pocket. Live to see another down and throw the ball away or take the sack. However, the odds are stacked against the Broncos to win the turnover battle. Kansas City has not turned the ball over since the first Hunt carry of the season in week one.
If Denver can pull off the upset, they’ll need to win ugly. The Broncos have a prime opportunity to make a statement while displaying an “us against the world mentality.” Does this team have the leadership and poise to overcome the glaring issues on the offensive side of the ball? We’ll find out Monday night.
For now, there seems to be too much for the Broncos to overcome on the road in one of the hardest places to win in all of sports. 24-13 Chiefs.