A heavyweight clash and one that didn’t disappoint.
Sunday Night Football featured the previously perfect Kansas City Chiefs heading to Mile High to try and best the Denver Broncos. With Peyton Manning healthy enough to play both teams had no excuses and the intensity from first to last was what football should be about.
Come the end of the game it was the Broncos that stood tall but the Chiefs, who many have doubted, may have proved more in losing than they had in any of their nine victories. And that means an Arrowhead rematch is something we can all look forward to.
Chiefs – Three Performances of Note
A New Alex Smith?
The biggest knock I and others have had on the Chiefs has been their lack of a passing attack, especially one downfield. Well, against Denver we got a glimpse of something that with some more fine tuning might add another dimension to this offense.
The previously gun shy Alex Smith (+1.6) would attempt 14 passes over 10 yards in the air and the biggest shame was that his receivers (four drops, three of them critical) couldn’t make the catches to give Smith that stat to go with his excellent throws. These four drops don’t even include his peach of a throw that bested the coverage of Chris Harris with 8:25 to go in Q2 (the play was called back for holding away from the target), where Smith fitted it in between the sideline and Harris only for Bowe to drop.
Still it was encouraging to see the team open up the playbook and by and large have their quarterback respond.
All Hail Houston
When the Broncos started off the game they seemed intent on running away from Justin Houston (+7.5). They’re no fools and seemed to think they could keep him out of the game with such a plan. Only the ramped up Houston had other ideas and would cut across blockers and pursue runners down the line to make tackles for a short gain.
When they did start running to his side it was more of the same as he had little difficulty shedding blocks and bringing down ball carriers. While it wasn’t his best pass rushing display (two hurries and two batted passes) you won’t often see an outside linebacker finish with eight defensive stops against the run on 36 run defense snaps.
No entity has recognized the excellent play of Marcus Cooper as much as our own. But we’ve done so with the warning that bigger tests where to come, and Peyton Manning and the Broncos were just that. Unfortunately for Cooper he just wasn’t up to it as he recorded a season worst -5.8 grade.
On the surface 6-of-13 receptions into his coverage might not seem that bad, but when you factor in he was flagged for a penalty and allowed 128 yards it looks even worse. Then there’s the case of some off target throws saving him further as on three occasions he was beaten down the right sideline on go routes only for the ball to be overthrown. If they were completed we might be talking about the 200 yard plus day he gave up.
Broncos – Three Performances of Note
Nobody has graded out better than Peyton Manning in our system this year. But for as good as he’s been, that doesn’t mean we can just look at box scores and assume they tell the whole story. Yes 300 yard plus passing days are nice, but with just three completions over 10 yards in the air all game it was hardly vintage from Manning (-1.3).
You might blame that on the injury, but Manning was guilty of making a number of bad decisions (an early batted pass by Houston could easily have been picked, as could an out route to Julius Thomas with 6:45 to go in Q3) while he failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities. As previously mentioned four times receivers had coverage beat down the sideline and only once did Manning hit his target, leaving yards on the field. That the game was as close as it was owed something to that and it’s not right to ignore.
While he hasn’t had the most of consistent of years, given his play in San Diego in 2012 Shaun Phillips (+5.5) deserves a lot of credit for showing he’s still got some gas left in the tank. Proving a more valuable player than any imagined, he’s still logging healthy snap numbers (60 of 83 yesterday) even with the return of Von Miller.
And the good news is he repaid that faith in a big way against the Chiefs. He ended the day with two sacks and three hurries with two more batted passes, two stops in the run game and one more in coverage. What more could you ask?
A Fine Battle
The modern NFL doesn’t always lend itself to great battles between nose tackles and centers. So when one comes along then we should really appreciate it, and that’s what I did when Manny Ramirez and Dontari Poe collided.
In the first half it was as even a battle as could be with the two trading blows, Ramirez getting the kind of lateral movement the Broncos wanted to set up cutback lanes and Poe use his power to get off blocks and force a number of stark cuts and pick up one tackle for a short gain. The second half was more one sided as Poe grew stronger as the game went on and by the end of the day he’s finished with a healthy four stops but was neutralized rushing the passer outside of one hurry. But regardless of who won it was, as is often the case, just fantastic viewing to watch two guys playing so well take each other on over a prolonged period of time.
– In the battles of the Colquitts Dustin (-3.2) struggled with his punts lacking direction and the requisitie hangtime while Britton (+1.5) was far more solid.
– The Chiefs got pressure on just 6-of-40 Denver dropbacks.
– Fifth round pick Sander Commings played his first three snaps in the regular season.
A big day for Shaun Phillips who was a constant thorn in the Chiefs side.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled