The Broncos have now won back-to-back games after beating the Patriots in Week 6. Up next, Denver is at home to take on the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. This seems like an impossible game for the Broncos to win, and it’s their first game within the AFC West.
The momentum has been built right in time for the team’s most dangerous foe. There is likely to be snow and cold weather on Sunday in the Mile High City, and that is going to factor into the outcome somehow someway.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio says that the weather could change the approach to the game.
“It possibly could. It all depends until we get there on Sunday and see the exact conditions we’ll be playing in, the conditions of the field. When we played them in that second game last year and it snowed, I didn’t really think that it affected the offenses too much. It didn’t affect theirs for sure. It could, but I don’t think you can answer that until you actually see what you’re dealing with,” Fangio said.
The last time we saw Broncos versus Chiefs it was a snow game, but that was at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver has the home-field advantage this time around for whatever that’s worth. Here are three things the Broncos must do to beat the Chiefs.
The Broncos are undefeated (6-0) when starting running back Phillip Lindsay rushes for more than 100 yards. A key to victory last week was getting Lindsay going with the ground game and he responded with a 23-carry, 101-yard performance against the Patriots. They must get him going once again this week for their best chance to win.
Yes, Melvin Gordon should return to the field in Week 7, but that shouldn’t change the plan for Lindsay to hit the century mark. Gordon missed the game against the Patriots due to strep throat that was onset the same week he was cited for a DUI. The league discipline is likely coming later for the veteran back, but for now he should be out there against the Chiefs.
“I think he will be, yes. We’d go back to the plan we had for the opener. We’d use them both and manipulate the situations and also there would be a chance for both of them to be out there at the same time,” Fangio said.
The Chiefs have only one loss this year, and that was to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5. A big part of the Raiders game plan was to keep the Chiefs offense on the sidelines by running the ball early and often. Star running back Josh Jacobs ended up with only had 77 yards, but he did carry the ball 23 times and had two rushing touchdowns. The Broncos need to run the ball early and often with Lindsay and Gordon.
Using both makes sense as there are carries (short-yardage) where Gordon is the better option. However, Lindsay is the spark plug for the offense and should get a bulk of the carries. He’s more explosive than Gordon and more dangerous in the open field.
Not only should the Broncos get Lindsay 100 yards on the ground, they should also use him more in the receiving game. Last week, Lindsay did not see a single pass thrown his way and that’s a mistake. We’ll see if the team works to get Lindsay the ball as their featured back against the Chiefs.
Take Some Deep Shots
In addition to running the rock, the Raiders were able to connect on deep shots when they beat the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago. The Broncos have a young quarterback in Drew Lock who seems to only want to take shots deep down the field. A favorite target of Lock has been Tim Patrick, a player who has been working his way up the depth chart for the Broncos over the last couple of years.
Patrick has back-to-back 100-yard games and could be in line for a third one. He’s a large receiver with an athletic profile and the “my ball” mentality that scouts (and coaches) love.
Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has a healthy appreciation for what Patrick has been able to do this year.
“He’s a classic example of a guy that when he’s been given his opportunity to make plays, he makes plays. Whoever the quarterback has been in there, he’s put the ball around him and he’s caught the ball. That’s what you need to do as a receiver. We appreciate all that he brings to the table. It’s interesting. We look at guys who produce and do what you have to do within the scheme that we’re trying to execute, and he does that,” Shurmur said.
In addition to Patrick, the Broncos need to get Jerry Jeudy more involved if at all possible. The Raiders have a first-round wide receiver just like the Broncos do in Jeudy, and their guy – Henry Ruggs – was able to shake free for a long 72-yard touchdown. Ruggs only had two catches in that contest but it went for 118 yards and that touchdown grab. Jeudy has yet to have a 100-yard game in his rookie season and is mostly known for the drops and lapses in concentration he’s shown this year.
Jeudy has talent – a ton of talent – but he needs to start putting it all together. The weather may limit the passing game somewhat, but a few deep shots to Patrick and Jeudy could work on Sunday.
Fangio is a coach that is known for playing zone defense and not historically blitzing that much. The last two weeks – two victories – Fangio has changed his tune. The Broncos are playing man coverage a bit more, but they are certainly blitzing at a higher rate than they ever have under Fangio.
Going up against Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to be a huge challenge. The advanced data shows that when Mahomes is blitzed (sending more than four rushers) he is better than he normally is – and he’s the best player in the game. Simply put, blitz Mahomes and he will kill your defense.
Fangio knows that sending extra guys after Mahomes may not work the way it has in each of the last two games.
“It’s a fine line. The definition of a great quarterback to me is that there’s no one way to play them. You can’t go pressure heavy. You can’t just void yourself of pressure. You can’t play all man. You can’t play all zone. You’ve got to mix it up because the great quarterbacks are too good, and this quarterback is definitely great. He’s got great weapons, they’ve got a great offensive scheme, and they’re really tough to beat. There’s no one way to play them or people would have tried it — as you’ve seen the scores — nobody has broken that code yet,” Fangio said.
Mahomes is not going to be bothered by the snow. In fact, he says he’s more comfortable playing in the elements. Don’t blitz him the way you did Cam Newton and Sam Darnold/Joe Flacco and you’ll have a better chance of pulling off the improbable win.
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