ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A little over two weeks ago, the Denver Broncos faced a Kansas City Chiefs defense that opened the Nov. 17 game in Sports Authority Field at Mile High as the league’s sack leader with 36.
And the Broncos didn’t make many concessions to that as they went about their business on offense. They stuck to their three-wide receiver look, an offensive set they prefer far more than any other, kept quarterback Peyton Manning in the shotgun and still kept Manning clean as he was not sacked in the game.
So while the Broncos expect to see a new wrinkle or two from Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium, once again keeping the Chiefs' rushers off Manning in the ear-splitting noise of the Chiefs’ home stadium will be a difficult challenge that remains on the front burner.
The last time the two teams played, the Broncos stayed in a three-wide set for all but 10 snaps in the game -- 75 in all, including penalty plays. Manning was in the shotgun for 65 of those plays and the Broncos essentially conducted themselves as they would have against most defenses this season.
Manning, with a braced right ankle, got rid of the ball a little more quickly in that game and the Broncos pounded out what was then a season-most 36 carries in the run game to keep the Chiefs front honest. The Broncos managed just 2.9 yards per carry in the game, but the commitment kept the Chiefs from simply sending everybody at Manning. This past Sunday night, in the overtime loss to the Patriots, the Broncos were in a three-wide set for all but two snaps in the game and still ran the ball 48 times.
The Chiefs are a little battered in the defensive front with outside linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) slated to miss the game and outside linebacker Tamba Hali (ankle) having been limited some in practice this week. The two have combined for 20 sacks this season.
The Chiefs have also seen offenses have a little more success against their pass rush as the weeks have gone on. Kansas City has two sacks in the last games, combined with Buffalo and Denver having held them without a sack.
Several teams, when the Broncos keep the tight end in tight, just off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, in the three-wide set have decided the gap to attack is between the tight end and the tackle, or just have the outside rusher square up on the tight end.
The Chiefs routinely have Houston rushing in 1-on-1 situations. But noise will also be an issue -- earlier this season the Raiders had three delay of game penalties and three flags for false starts -- and Broncos tackles Orlando Franklin and Chris Clark will have to be disciplined in their sets.