KANSAS CITY, Mo. –– Five things to ponder heading into the Sunday night showdown between the 9-0 Chiefs and the 8-1 Broncos.
The crazy thing is that if it weren’t for the Dwayne Bowe arrest last weekend, the Chiefs would be nothing more than a side note for the national media in this mighty showdown Sunday night.
The national spotlight seems to have been mostly about Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The fact that the Chiefs are actually 9-0 and leading the division doesn’t seem to play in to the national story line. Even Vegas seems to be dissing the Chiefs — the Broncos are a nine-point favorite, a pretty big spread by NFL standards.
But all that suits the Chiefs just fine.
“Honestly, we truly don’t care how people think about us or if we’re not getting enough attention,” Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali said. “That’s how our leaders feel. Not to bring up last year, but we didn’t get any respect last year because we weren’t winning games, even though we had good players. We have good players again and we’re winning, and maybe we aren’t getting attention.
“But it doesn’t matter who is paying attention. At the end of the day, it’s all about being 1-0 each week.”
Linebacker Derrick Johnson said he likes the role of underdog.
“I’d rather us not get all the attention right now,” he said.
And Hali reminds us that the game is not played in the media.
“They’re a good team and we’re a good team,” he said. “It will come down to who executes the best on Sunday.” THE WILLIAMS FACTOR?
With the Chiefs picking up former 49ers wideout Kyle Williams, the question becomes how quickly the Chiefs can assimilate him into the offense.
Williams is scrambling to learn at least some of the playbook, and it may be a reach to think he could contribute by Sunday. But he could be activated to play on special teams. Williams hasn’t been told where he will suit up.
“Not sure yet, not sure,” he said. “Again, quick turnaround. I’m still just spinning around trying to figure out which way is where. Again, I’ll be ready to play Sunday if they need me to.”
One factor will help: Being reunited with quarterback Alex Smith, whom Williams credits with turning around the 49ers’ organization.
“He is always the same guy,” Williams said of Smith. “Going through being at the bottom at San Francisco and then having him taking us up, the guy knows how to win. He knows how to run a team and run a locker room. He’s a guy that I really admire, and I’m happy to be back with him.”
WHY NOT SIT BOWE?
A final thought about the whole Bowe incident: It might have been wise for the Chiefs to suit Bowe up for Sunday’s game, but then at least sit him for a quarter or a half as a disciplinary signal to the rest of the team that the Chiefs don’t tolerate conduct detrimental to the team.
Granted, the Chiefs’ hands are tied in terms of suspending him — that will be a league matter under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But there is nothing preventing the Chiefs from benching him for a period of time.
Yes, we know that in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. The league must wait until the legal system takes its course before it takes action.
But Bowe did demonstrate poor judgment by getting himself into that situation in the first place. That’s at least worth a minor benching.
You’ll recall the last time the Chiefs and Broncos met during the regular season with the national spotlight so heavy on them — the famous Joe Montana-John Elway game at Mile High in 1994 on Monday night.
Derrick Thomas was late for a team meeting and Marty Schottenheimer wanted to sit him for the entire game as a disciplinary measure. General manager Carl Peterson eventually persuaded Marty to sit Thomas for only the first quarter, but that at least sent the message to the rest of the team that the team, indeed, comes first. TIME FOR A BIG PLAY
If this were baseball, the Chiefs’ offense would be classified as station to station. The offense simply hasn’t delivered many home-run balls.
The Chiefs’ longest run from scrimmage is a 24-yarder from Jamaal Charles. And it says a lot that the second-longest run is from quarterback Alex Smith at 23 yards.
That has to change, starting Sunday.
“It’s a lot of things going into why we haven’t had a big run,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “No. 1, the offensive line, fullback, tight ends at the line of scrimmage and second-level defenders taking care of those blocks.
“A lot of your longer runs come from the receivers blocking down the field. Sometimes it’s the backside cutoff safety or corner that makes the play. We emphasize the backside blocks a lot, and we’ll get ours. There will come a time when Jamaal or one of the backs will spring loose and hopefully this is the week.”
BEWARE BRONCOS SPECIAL TEAMS
With all the focus on Manning, the Chiefs can’t forget about the Broncos’ other weapons, namely return man Trindon Holliday, who already has a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an 81-yard punt return for a score.
“I mean, Trindon Holliday is probably, if not the best, one of the best returners in the league right now,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. “I mean, he’s having a great year (as) a punt returner and a kick returner. Our unit has got their hands full this week, no question.”
Does anyone compare with Holliday?
“No, he’s the best we’ve faced this year, by far,” Toub said. “He’s got the total package. It’s not only him, it’s the whole unit. They do a good job blocking too for him. They play hard; they’ve got a lot of speed. They’ve got a great punter, you know, Dustin (Colquitt’s) brother and a really, really good kicker that bangs touchbacks, especially up there. We have to take advantage of our opportunities that we get and we also have to really be on our P’s and Q’s as far as coverage goes with Trindon Holliday, for sure.”
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.