Pat Shurmur has his work cut out for him this week.
The Kansas City Chiefs have beaten the Denver Broncos 11 straight times. To prevent a 12th, Fangio and the Broncos defense will need to find a way to slow down Patrick Mahomes. Yesterday I wrote about how such a gameplan will create stress points on other parts of the defense, which means individual matchups along the Broncos front are going to be critical. Unfortunately, nothing the defense does will matter if Pat Shurmur and the Broncos offense can’t move the ball. To do so, they’ll need an answer for the Chiefs best player outside of Mahomes himself: Chris Jones.
If you look at the season long numbers, the Chiefs defense is abysmal. On the year they’re allowing 364 yards per game, the 10th worst mark in the league. They’re also the 26th ranked defense by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric that adjusts for opponent strength. Dig beneath the surface a little and you’ll notice 2021 has been a tale of two defenses for the Chiefs: they were historically inept through the first five weeks of the season and that played a huge role in Kansas City’s 2-3 start. In the six games since, they’ve created 11 turnovers and limited opponents to 303.5 yards per contest, a mark that’d rank among the three best defenses in the league.
On this week’s Cover 2 Broncos, KC Sports Network’s Craig Stout and I went over the personnel changes that occurred to spur such a momentous improvement, because it isn’t as if Steve Spagnuolo reinvited the egg. Daniel Sorenson’s role was minimized, as he was replaced in the starting lineup by Juan Thornhill. The linebacker corps. has moved to a rotation consisting of Anthony Hitchens, Willie Gay, and rookie Nick Bolton, while Melvin Ingram was acquired before the NFL trade deadline to serve as a pass rush specialist. All these moves made incremental improvements that have added up, but none moved the needle nearly as much as the way Spags changed Chris Jones’ role.
After experimenting with him at five technique early in the campaign, Spagnuolo moved Jones back to his familiar home along the interior defensive line. It’s worked to perfection, as the Chiefs’ best defensive player has looked like a complete game wrecker in the weeks leading up to their bye. Jones’ four and a half sacks since the Chiefs loss to the Tennessee Titans fails to really capture how dominant he’s been. The Dallas Cowboys had no answer for him.
Facing 2nd and two from the Dallas 34, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore dials up a play action boot for Dak Prescott. The play call makes sense. With only two yards to the sticks, it’s as good a time as any to take a shot towards the goal line. The run action should hold the Kansas City linebackers and the flow away from the action could give Prescott a chance to escape the rush and find someone downfield. The concept fails because Jones immediately sniffs out the play, crosses the right tackles face, and chases Prescott down in the backfield. A four-yard sack sets up third and six, and it’s back to the drawing board for Kellen Moore.
Third and six is an obvious passing down for most NFL offenses, and the Chiefs respond by lining Jones up at the three technique across from the Cowboys’ overmatched left guard. With Jarran Reed and Frank Clark beside him to eat up any potential help, Jones bursts off the snap and forces his way past the guard to Prescott. Dak sees the trouble bearing down and rolls out to his left but can’t reset his feet to get rid of the ball because of pursuit by Clark and Jones. The quarterback sheds a lunging tackle by Clark and flips his hips to get rid of the ball but can’t throw it before Jones strips him. The sideline is the only reason Kansas City doesn’t come away with a turnover.
Take note of the fact Jones moves around. Kansas City won’t hesitate to use him over whatever matchup is most favorable, which means the questions about Dalton Risner’s back and Quinn Meinerz’s knee loom large over the contest. Jones has the quick hands and power to match up with the Broncos’ rookie right guard, as well as the burst and twitch to be a huge problem for Risner because he has the quickness to force an overset before working across. He’s also has the length to give Netane Muti nightmares if Risner can’t play through pain.
The best way to mitigate the damage Jones can do is limit the number of opportunities he has to pin his ears back and rush the passer. He’s so athletic, strong, and savvy that he can be a huge issue for run blockers as well, but there are instances where he’ll play too high, which can make him moveable. Pat Shurmur should make a concentrated effort to establish the run this week so long as the game situation allows for it.
Your Broncos’ News
I spoke with KC Sports Network’s Craig Stout to discuss how the Denver Broncos might beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
To slow down Mahomes, the Broncos’ front seven needs to do their part.
A critical and statistical look at the play of the Denver Bronco 2021 offensive line in comparison to 2020
With the rash of injuries the Broncos have had at linebacker, Baron Browning got rushed out there faster than the original plan might have been. He’s answered the call this season.
What would it mean for the Broncos’ season to beat the Chiefs? What would it mean if they don’t?
Ranking 32 NFL GMs: Browns’ Andrew Berry, Broncos’ George Paton fast starters, but Patriots’ Bill Belichick sets pace – The Athletic
PAYWALL: 2. George Paton, Denver Broncos (.545): The Broncos are getting strong contributions from multiple players selected in Paton’s first draft with the team, all the way down to seventh-rounder pass-rusher Jonathon Cooper. Paton has re-signed young receivers, gotten value for Von Miller, who would have departed in the offseason, remained in the playoff race and positioned the Broncos to make a big jump if they can add a quarterback in the offseason. Of course, if finding a quarterback were easy, the Broncos would have added one a long time ago. Rodgers’ situation bears watching.
If the Broncos really do struggle to run against a dramatically improving Chiefs run defense, then Noah Fant seems like the perfect receiver to benefit. His target total has dipped to 14 in three games with Jerry Jeudy back on the field, but his 16.9% target share has remained top-14 at the position in that time. The Broncos didn’t need Fant when the ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on the Chargers last week. But they likely will this Sunday, and the Chiefs increase tight end yards and touchdowns by 23% and 42% per target, both top-six in football. With the matchup gains, Fant creeps into my top 10 at the position this week.
You need the ranks: By ALY the Broncos are poor running to left end (19th), up the middle (G-C-G, 22nd) and right end (24th), but in the top 10 when we run behind LT (5th) or RT (9th). https://t.co/gkPQbl4G36
— Joseph Mahoney (@ndjomo76) December 2, 2021
If the Broncos are chasing a QB in 2022, they’ll have competition.
Sean Payton got no explanation for blindside block call that went against the Saints – ProFootballTalk
It also should be explained to NFL fans. The FOX broadcast didn’t do a great job with the call, first not even showing referee Brad Rogers announce the penalty, and then never bringing former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira on to discuss the call. Analyst Troy Aikman blasted the call and said Pereira agreed with him that it was a bad call, but Pereira himself never said a word about it, even though he was on the broadcast.
The NFL Officiating department also didn’t explain the call. Although the @NFLOfficiating Twitter account was active during the game and explained why a Dallas interception was upheld, nothing was explained about the most controversial call of the game.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Hill is believed to have a torn tendon in the finger. More tests are being done on the injury and he may need to have surgery to correct the issue.
Jones suffered the neck strain in the Giants’ Week 12 win over Philadelphia. Earlier in the week, it appeared Jones would miss at least one game, but the QB was able to get in limited practice reps, keeping faint hope briefly alive he might be able to suit up.
We often say “this is the worst call ever” … but calling this a blindside block is the worst call I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/JrRy6IwAB7
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 3, 2021
The Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide meet in Atlanta, Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for this year’s iteration of the SEC Championship Game. A whopping 16 TDN100 players call either Georgia or Alabama home, with 15 of them playing on Saturday afternoon. To get you prepped for the game, here are the 15 highest-rated Bulldog and Crimson Tide players you need to keep an eye on during the game.
Saturday will be the final week of major college football, with the traditional Army vs. Navy game to follow next weekend. This weekend has huge implications to finalize the College Football Playoff bracket—not to mention bowl game rankings and potential matchups as well. There will be eyes glued to the television screens and scouts are sure to be in attendance. There are a plethora of prospects with a ton to gain this weekend regarding their draft stock. Here is my watchlist for Championship Saturday!
The Broncos could have drafted Chris Jones, but John Elway was too busy reaching for a bad quarterback.
I like to think there’s a lesson there, somewhere.
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 3, 2021