I really enjoyed this game, and for most of it felt comfortable in my pick of the Chiefs over the Broncos, but let’s take a look at how it went for both teams.
The Broncos came out running the ball, with Manning under centre much more than in recent years, but after an initial good run through a big hole, the offence started having problems. Through most of the half they seemed to struggle, and whilst Manning’s timing looked off and he missed long balls, he was not as bad as was made out to have been in week one. That said, whilst things did improve as the Broncos moved more into the offence we more normally associate with Manning, they were never that convincing and it still seems strange to me that the Broncos were so willing to tinker with their offensive line when they have a thirty-nine year old quarterback who even in his prime was never known for his mobility. However, things did improve for Manning over the course of the game, and he found Emmanuel Sanders a lot early, and Demaryius Thomas frequently towards the end of the game, despite the o-line really hampering them, but he did not look like the Manning of old, and he was not able to win them this game.
In fairness, part of the problem for the Broncos was they were going against a very good Chiefs defence, with Justin Houston making plays all around the defence as well as getting his two sacks and three quarterback hits. The Chiefs’ rookie corner back Marcus Peters was also impressive, apart from intercepting Manning and taking it fifty-five yards for a touchdown, he showed up in coverage repeatedly, deflecting another four passes and is already beginning to look at home in the NFL.
The Chiefs offence did enough in this game to win against a Broncos defence that looks set to be near the top of the defensive rankings all year. The addition of Jeremy Maclin has not exactly transformed their passing offence, but he caught four balls from seven targets, and helped open up the offence by offering a genuine threat. I’m sure people will still be talking about this offence not throwing a passing touchdown to a receiver, but Travis Kelce still offers a good threat from tight end, and I am sure the receiver stat will change this season. What hasn’t changed is the Chiefs’ commitment to running the ball, and with a back like Jamaal Charles why would it? He ran for one hundred and twenty-five yards in this game, and looked good doing it. The offence punched the ball in twice on the ground, and the game looked like it was going into overtime until it finally unravelled for the Chiefs.
The Broncos defence looked good all game again. They have a no obvious weaknesses, managed to get four sacks and seven quarterback hits, plus has one of the best starting corner tandems in the NFL who managed to get an interception each. In this game they also managed to get an unlikely looking win when Brandon Marshall forced Jamaal Charles’s second fumble of the game and Bradley Roby returns it for a game winning touchdown.
The Broncos are now 2-0, despite rather than because of their offence, and it will be interesting to see how far they can go playing like this and how Manning will develop across the year as he and the new coaching staff continue to adjust to each other. However, with the way their defence is playing, they will be in a lot of games.
As for the Chiefs, I think they have improved on offence, their defence looks really good, and they should be in the playoff hunt come the end of the season, but this loss will hurt them. They were on top for most of the first half, but Alex Smith’s first interception allowed the Broncos to go into half time level, and they weren’t able to put the game away in the second half.
I shall finish, with one last piece of film study, as I could not work out how Emanuel Sanders was open for the Broncos first touchdown when watching the condensed game. The Broncos use 11 personnel in an empty backfield shotgun set with running back CJ Anderson lining up as a slot receiver on the right side, and tight end Own Daniels motioning from the right of the formation to wide left, becoming the outermost receiver on that side. I’m no entirely sure of the personnel, but the Chiefs look to have lined up in nickel, and certainly pass rushed with five, playing man coverage with no safety cover behind them. Justin Houston drops into some kind of zone on the left side of the deffence, but behind him CJ Anderson and Emanuel Sanders (who lined up as the outer receiver on the right side) run crossing routes so that Anderson just disrupts the Chiefs’ corner covering Sanders enough that he gets an easy catch and dives into the end zone. If Houston had rushed Manning he might have been able to get a sack or disrupt the pass, but as it is, all the pressure from the defence is coming from Manning’s left and he has an easy passing lane right to get his first touchdown of the game.