There’s never a great way for a defending champion’s playoff hopes to die, but for the Denver Broncos, a 33-10 beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, who controlled the game from start to finish and were stunting late in the fourth quarter, is about as bad as it gets.
The Broncos’ offense was puke once again, gaining a total of 246 yards and scoring just 10 points, but the defense had no reason to sneer at their offensive counterparts this time. The Chiefs racked up 484 total yards on their way to 33 points, and they did so by following a fairly simple formula: take the ball and run really damn fast.
The dirty secret about this Broncos defense, which is allowing just 19 points and 187 passing yard per game, is that it can’t really stop the run. The 135 ground yards per game the defense is surrendering ranks it as the fourth-worst run-stopping unit in the league. The strength of Denver’s defense is in the secondary and on the edges, from where Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Von Miller, and DeMarcus Ware can torture quarterbacks. The Chiefs effectively took those players out of the game by running the ball 37 times, leaving a defense that was without Brandon Marshall and T.J. Ward scrambling to catch up.
Kansas City finished with 284 yards on the ground behind a game plan full of stretch runs and read options. Tyreek Hill’s 70-yard touchdown run in the first quarter serves as a good summation of what the Broncos were dealing with all night:
Even tight end Travis Kelce, who finished the game with 160 yards on 11 receptions, did most of his damage with his legs. The Chiefs kept him away from Talib and Harris all night, and had him running quick routes designed to get the ball in his hands as soon as possible and let him run into space. Kelce is uniquely devastating in space, as he proved once again while taking a bubble screen 80 yards to the house:
Coaches and pundits love to talk about the importance of game plans, but sometimes it can be hard to spot the tangible effects of all that preparation in the middle of a chaotic game. This was not the case last night. The Chiefs set their sights on a hole in the middle of the Broncos’ vaunted defense, and then proceeded to drive a squadron of sports cars right through it. It must have been horrifying to watch for anyone rooting for Denver, and immensely satisfying for anyone cheering on the Chiefs.