ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In a week in which there has been plenty of discussion in and around the Denver Broncos about inner strife and locker room turmoil over offense vs. defense, Wade Phillips had his own take on things.
Given that Phillips has spent 39 seasons in the NFL, the Broncos' defensive coordinator has seen more than a few ways teams win or lose along the way.
"The way I've always approached it is, our defense has to play better than the other team's defense," Phillips said this week. "It's not about our offense. If their defense holds our team to 10 points, then we need to hold them to nine in order to play better than the other team's defense. ... That's why there really isn't a divide as far as I'm concerned. There's always frustration when you don't win; it doesn't matter, offensively, defensively and special teams. You're going to get upset when you lose. If you don't, you're going to have a bad football team."
The Broncos (8-6) will need every bit of what their defense can bring to the table in the last two games of the regular season if they are going to have any chance to stay in the playoff race. With that in mind, here some things to watch for in Sunday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium:
Remember recent history: The Chiefs scored three touchdowns in Kansas City's overtime win over the Broncos on Nov. 17 in Denver, and it was Tyreek Hill who scored all of them with a Gale Sayers-like trifecta: an 86-yard kickoff return, a 3-yard reception and a 3-yard run. Hill has dropped more than a few big plays on opponents since the win over the Broncos, and the Chiefs have tried to find more ways to get Hill involved. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak called Hill "a beast right now." The Broncos can't let Hill tip the scales on what is expected to be a rainy night in Kansas City, when field conditions may not be the best. The Broncos have to surround him and they can't miss tackles.
Keep Siemian clean: Oakland and Tennessee, who have two of the most physical offensive lines in the league, each limited the Chiefs to one sack over the past two games. But those teams have two of the best running games in the league and play with a physical edge up front that the Broncos haven't shown since they rushed for 190 yards against the Houston Texans just before Halloween. Trevor Siemian does need to ditch the ball quicker at times, but overall the Broncos' best opportunities to make a play downfield in the passing game usually have come when the quarterback has hung in to take a hit as he delivered the ball. The Chiefs have three players -- Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Tamba Hali -- who can disrupt things in the rush. Ford, with 10 sacks this season, didn't play in the first meeting.
Somehow, some way, run the ball: Forecasts predict sloppy, rainy conditions in Kansas City. There is no better time for the Broncos to carve out a little room to run the ball. But whether it's the line or the backs, the bottom line is this will be the worst rushing season in franchise history if the Broncos don't rise above their current No. 27 ranking. Justin Forsett, in just his third week as a Broncos running back, has shown brief flashes of potential. The Chiefs have allowed teams to find room to work in the running game, especially to the offense's left; Kansas City has allowed opposing runners to average at least 4.4 yards per carry over the center, over the left guard, over the left tackle and around the left end. In runs over the left tackle, teams have averaged 6.3 yards per carry. That's Russell Okung and Max Garcia on the left side of the Broncos' offensive line, and while defensive coordinators have attacked them hard, those two need their best day on Sunday.
Show some mettle: The prevailing wisdom outside of the Broncos' locker room is the team looked a little listless this week, that their own frustrations and shortcomings have gotten to them. The Broncos have promised all season they could bring their championship pedigree if needed. Well, it's needed on a holiday week with any chance at the playoffs hanging in the balance. The Broncos' effort will reveal how much they really believe in themselves and in each other. Their locker room blow-up last week most likely was blown out of proportion, but it does speak to the general frustration with how things have gone. Bottom line is, the Broncos have said they're playoff worthy all season. If they lose, they're out of the postseason conversation and will have plenty of explaining to do.