Keeler: Three pressing questions as Broncos Week begins
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Once upon a time, before the 2013 Denver Broncos were treating the scoreboard as their own personal pinball machine, there were the 1950 Los Angeles Rams.
The Los Angeles Rams had arguably the best quarterback in the game in young Norm Van Brocklin, a future Hall of Famer, and partner Bob Waterfield was no slouch, either. They had weapons all over the place, names like Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch and Tom Fears.
They were respected. They were feared. They put up 70 points on the Baltimore Colts, 65 points on the Detroit Lions and 45 on the Green Bay Packers.
Through the first nine games of the season, they scored 358 points, an NFL record that stood until Sunday, when it was broken by the aforementioned Broncos’ 371 points over nine contests.
Well, in Week 10, those 1950 Rams met the Chicago Bears — then, as now, one of the most feared defenses in football. And lost, 24-14.
Which begs the question: Could history repeat itself?
CHIEFS AT BRONCOS: THREE MONDAY QUESTIONS TO PONDER
:03 … How badly is Peyton Manning hurt?
The Chargers tried on Sunday. Honest, they did. Manning got sacked four times in a 28-20 win at San Diego, and some of the takedowns were cringe-worthy, including a shot by Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget with 1:44 left in the game.
The man was, according to reports, limping out of San Diego because of a bum right ankle. He wouldn’t say exactly where it hurt after the game, telling The Associated Press only that it was “somewhere in that lower body.” He’s slated to undergo an MRI on Monday.
The Broncos’ offensive line won more than its share of battles in the trenches, but the protection on Manning’s blind side hasn’t been the same since left tackle Ryan Clady had his season ended after Week 2 because of a Lisfranc problem. And you better believe that fact isn’t lost on the mind of Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
:02 … Is there a secret “X factor” for the Chiefs that maybe we aren’t talking about?
If it isn’t special teams — back on Oct. 20 in Indianapolis, Broncos return man Trindon Holliday fumbled away one runback, leading to a Colts score — it’s this: Can The Andy Gang run the ball on Denver in Denver?
And, more important, can they continue to run the ball when it counts? The Broncos came into Week 10 with the fourth-best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing just 87.0 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry.
But another potentially massive X factor is also a fairly obvious one: Turnovers. The Colts recovered two Denver fumbles — one on a strip-sack of Manning — and won the turnover margin, 3-1. If the Chiefs aren’t plus-2 or plus-3 up in the mountains, the path to victory could prove to be a very rocky one indeed.
:01 … Will field goals be enough?
Yeah, well, this is Peyton Manning. We already know the answer to that one, don’t we?
The Chargers made it inside the Denver 23-yard line three times in their first four possessions and came away with only six points on three field-goal attempts. When the Colts handed Denver its only loss, Indy converted three of its four red-zone opportunities, building a 36-17 lead at Lucas Oil Stadium before basically hanging on for dear life in a 39-33 victory. Manning is the NFL’s version of the T-1000, the ultimate video-game boss: He’s going to get his, and he’s going to keep pushing and pushing until they either cart him off the field or the clock runs out on him.
And Chiefs fans will take either option, of course. Happily.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.