Chiefs need to borrow a page from New England’s book against the Broncos
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Did you happen to catch the Patriots late Sunday night? Because that’s how you do it, kids. The second half was a training video on How To Beat Peyton Manning.
Step 1: Grab the nearest tire iron.
It wasn’t football. It was WrestleMania XXX. The Little Old Lady Who Lives In A Shoe doesn’t use that many clotheslines.
At the line of scrimmage, there was more pushing and shoving than a House of Pain video. It was college basketball, before the rules-makers decided to get cute.
It was as if the game plan for the week had been drawn up by that noted military strategist, John “Bluto” Blutarsky from the movie “Animal House:” Welker? Dead! Decker? Dead! Thomas? Dead!
Because here’s the thing: Bluto Ball works.
Hell, Bluto Ball might be the only thing that stands between the Kansas City Chiefs and a January visit to either Indianapolis or Cincinnati.
Denver speedster Demaryius Thomas, last seen leaving tire tracks up the back of Marcus Cooper, dropped five balls against New England. According to the charting wizards over at ProFootballFocus.com, Pats cornerback Aqib Talib, the former Kansas Jayhawk, allowed three of six throws his way to be completed for 30 yards, with one touchdown and one pass break-up.
Bill Belichick’s other corners were just as feisty, as Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan were targeted seven times, according to PFF, while allowing just two catches for 15 yards with two passes swatted and one pick.
When Manning comes to town, it’s all hands on Deck. Literally.
“We’re a man-to-man team,” Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis said. “That’s what you beat man-to-man teams with, is crossing routes, out routes, and things like that. Pick routes, and stuff like that.”
What’s the old line? Offense is about timing; defense is about disrupting it. After seven weeks of absolute dominance and two weeks (the Cleveland and Buffalo games) of some doubt, the Broncos two weeks ago wrote the definitive book on neutralizing The Tao of Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and his blitz looks.
Step 2: Get it out, get it out quick, and worry about the consequences later.
The Chiefs typically rely on single-man, press coverage on the outside and in the slot. Sometimes, there’s safety help over the top.
But when there isn’t, if a receiver wins the battle at the line of scrimmage — or if a corner such as, say, Sean Smith, happens to lose his footing and slip — then …
Zoom. Gone. Like the Road Runner. Beep. Beep.
“So they took whatever they could take from the Denver game and they executed it against us,” Lewis said of the Chargers, who came into Arrowhead Stadium last week and chucked it 39 times for 387 passing yards. “We just have to come out and correct the mistakes, see how we can fix that and see how teams are attacking us to counteract those guys.”
According to PFF, Manning’s average snap-to-release time versus the Chiefs was 2.2 seconds. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers averaged 2.7 seconds a week later. The Broncos converted 6 of 16 third-down opportunities. The Chargers made good on 7 of 15. After not allowing more than 17 points in any of its first nine contests, The Andy Gang gave up 27 in Denver and 41 last weekend.
“It’s a copycat league, you know?” cornerback Smith observed. “When you see somebody else have success, you do the same thing. You just have to stop it.”
You have to get physical. You have to get nasty.
Rub routes, pick routes, crossing routes are an isolation game. The cleanest path to stopping the rubs and picks and crosses that have sunk the Chiefs’ battleship is also the ugliest: Obstruction.
The more violent, the more persistent, the better.
You’ll risk a flag, of course. You also risk getting lit up like The Plaza in December if you don’t.
Survival comes back to the secondary, especially safeties Lewis, Eric Berry and Quentin Demps. Especially if one or both of the Chiefs’ star pass-rushers — Justin Houston (elbow) and Tamba Hali (ankle) — can’t go.
Bluto Ball works. Bluto Ball limits surprises, which is what the Chargers unleashed on the Chiefs’ defense last Sunday, defensive end Tyson Jackson noted, flaunting a “scheme that we hadn’t seen all year” from them.
“I don’t know however many film(s) we watched on them,” Jackson said. “(But) that was the first time they came out with those plays. Which, take your hat off to them, they came up with a good execution plan. As a defense, we’ve still got to do a better job of getting off the field on third down.”
And there’s the rub.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.