Photo: Chuck Cook USA Today Sports
On Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead with the AFC West on the line, the Kansas City Chiefs face off against their hated rivals the Denver Broncos. So can the boys in red hold serve on their home turf and avenge their loss from two weeks ago? If they do, these five have to deliver their ‘A’ game.
1. QB Alex Smith - If the Kansas City Chiefs defense can’t adjust their pass defending schemes the second time around against the Denver Broncos, Smith is going to have to carry this team on the back of his jersey.
Much like last week Smith should have some mighty big open targets against the Broncos suspect defensive secondary. Smith showed signs in the first match against Denver of doing just that but his receivers didn’t help out by dropping so many passes.
In successive weeks, Smith has already begun to shake the label he’s more than a dink and dunk game manager. He has a solid deep ball and has put that on display to give defenses another look from the Chiefs quarterback.
Last week against San Diego the Chiefs offensive line, aided by the additions of Guard Geoff Schwartz and Right Tackle Donald Stephenson, Smith had the most time in the pocket to throw the ball than in any other game this season.
It remains to be seen if Head Coach, Andy Reid, will put those two guys out there again on Sunday. But if they do, I suspect Smith could throw for over 300 yards and a trio of touchdowns against Denver.
2. WR Donnie Avery - When the Chiefs signed him in free agency last March, they hoped he’d become their down the field threat that could stretch defenses.
Last week against San Diego we saw that first hand. The Broncos secondary isn’t much better than the Chargers but they do offer more physicality at the line of scrimmage. That means they can disrupt the timing patterns the Chiefs like to run.
That’s why Avery needs to have a big game on Sunday. He’s the Chiefs best down the field receiver when he holds onto the ball. His propensity to lose focus was something that plagued him at Indianapolis a year ago and it’s cost his new team some big plays this season.
But against San Diego he made some terrific down the field catches. With Denver on tap, he’ll need to make three of four them to loosen up the Broncos press happy secondary.
3. C Rodney Hudson - In the first match up against Denver, Hudson was a model of inconsistency. With Broncos Defensive End, Kevin Vickerson, out with a season ending hip injury, Hudson has to become the Chiefs anchor.
That means he must hold his ground and not allow any of the Broncos pass rushers a free run to his quarterback. Even further, if he can control the point of attack in the passing game, that will allow Chiefs Running Back, Jamaal Charles, time to cutback and turn a short gain into a long gain that could produce some points.
On Sunday, the Broncos will stack the box against the Chiefs daring them to throw the ball over them. But if Hudson can show the nasty side that made him the best offensive lineman to ever come out of the state of Florida, Kansas City should own the line of scrimmage when they’re on offense.
4. CB Marcus Cooper - We’re about to find out if Cooper will continue his slide to into the mediocrity matrix or rise to the challenge of back-to-back poor performances.
Broncos Quarterback, Peyton Manning, will be throwing his direction every chance he can get. Last week against the Chargers, Cooper could not handle the crossing routes thrown his direction. The result was a blueprint on how weak certain aspects of the Chiefs secondary has become in recent games.
At one point, Cooper was the Chiefs best defender. In fact, if not for big plays against the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, it’s unlikely the Chiefs would stand 9-2 at this point of the season.
On Sunday, he needs to have a very short memory and deliver the goods for his defensive mates. If he can, I suspect Manning might find picking on Cooper a bit more difficult the second time around. If the Chiefs want to win this game, that’s precisely what has to happen.
5. LB Tamba Hali - Last Sunday the Chiefs best pass rusher left the field with an ankle injury that most observers felt; would keep him out of the lineup for weeks. But with the importance of this game against Denver, it would have taken an act of God to keep Hali off the field this weekend.
Over the last several weeks Hali has struggled to disrupt the short passing games of Denver and San Diego. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a thorn in Manning’s side this go round.
The success of Hali and the rest of the Chiefs front four won’t rest on sacking Manning but instead in pushing the pocket back just enough the Broncos quarterback has to think twice before he releases the ball. Usually when Manning hesitates opposing defenses have been able to create numerous turnover opportunities.
Hali might not be 100% in this game but that doesn’t matter. The fact he’s on the field playing hurt should prove to the rest of his defensive teammates they’d better match his intensity on Sunday.
After all, he wouldn’t be playing if he didn’t expect the Chiefs to win this game.
WARPAINT ILLUSTRATED MESSAGE BOARDS:
Can the Chiefs make amends for back to back losses?
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Chiefs, visit WarpaintIllustrated.com