Entering Sunday night’s sexy showdown with the Denver Broncos, Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs were the NFL’s only undefeated squad, but against Peyton Manning’s dominant aerial attitude in the higher altitude, KC fell victim to a numbers crunch.
By losing to Denver 27-17 , the Chiefs didn’t really earn the respect they were looking for, but they didn’t embarrass themselves either. There’s a pocket of non-believers, who feel KC’s glossy record accurately reflects a schedule that is the league’s softest, more so than Reid coming from Philly and creating this juggernaut of a squadron. Pardon the madness, but it’s hard to believe that a team that won two games last season is going to now win a Super Bowl. Stranger things have happened, but the Chiefs got their first taste of playoff caliber football on Sunday, on the road against a monster, and it didn't sit well in their stomachs.
The game plan to beating Manning is simple. Teams scoring fewer than 21 points a game against him are helpless, with a 4-105 record in Manning’s regular season career. Teams that score 21 points or more have a shot, going 67-57 against him.
Problem is, the Chiefs don’t put up major points, so their game plan is always keep it close and let the D bring it home. The game turned into a battle between a flamboyant bikini model and a nun. Manning is working on his 13th 4,000 yard passing season. He’s always ready to clear the clip. Chiefs QB Alex Smith is a game manager who slices and dices with a knife. Once his team falls behind though, his effectiveness is limited because his game’s built on being efficient, accurate and careful with the rock.
Through the first 10 weeks of the season, Smith completed a league-high 78.7 percent of his passes to receivers within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. His 5.4 percent rate of throwing passes more than 20 yards from scrimmage is the third lowest in the league. He’s not the type of guy that’s going to bring you back against a Denver team that averages 41.2 points per game. Holding them to 27 was actually a decent effort, and KC will get a crack at redemption in two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium, where the atmosphere will be unwelcoming and vicious for Denver.
But for now, Father Time and Peyton Manning have a thing going on where Manning gets injected with youth serum before every game. We hate to beat a dead horse, but how this cat balls out at 37 years of age is unprecedented in sports history. In fact, only Warren Moon and Brett Favre have had 33 or more TDs at the age of 37 or older. As if that’s not enough for opposing defenses to handle, the emergence of rookie scoring machine Monte Ball (2 rushing TDs) is making the Broncos better, and helps them eat clock and rest the defense. The much-maligned Denver D held it down against KC, but next week’s battle against Tom Brady’s Pats is the defining game for the Broncos so far. Speaking of Brady, Manning’s 34 th TD pass—a 9-yard bullet to Julius Thomas---gave Denver a 10-0 lead and put him on pace to beat Brady’s single-season TD record of 50.
Manning’s the anti-Smith, whose conservative play is backed up by a sack-nasty Chiefs' defense. They came into the game leading the league in points allowed (12.8) and hadn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game all season. With them facing the league's highest-scoring offense at 41.2 points per game, something had to give. KC hung around for most of the game and trailed by a TD (17-10) until late in the third quarter, but eventually Manning and Co., overwhelmed them, going 79, 65 and 62 yards for their last three scores and a 27-10 lead.
It was just another day at the office for Manning who passed for 323 yards and a score. The Broncos know who they are as a team and are fully aware of their mission to erase last year’s painful, double-OT playoff loss to Baltimore .
KC has high aspirations, but Reid’s unit hasn’t played together long enough to really know how they will handle the pressures and tribulations that come with competing against a murderers row of playoff teams. Luckily, that test won’t really come in these last six weeks as the Chiefs only face two more winning teams (7-3 Colts and 9-1 Broncos). The rest of the squads on their schedule (San Diego [twice], Oakland and Washington) have a combined record of 11-18.
The Chief are a dope story, but as Denver proved on Sunday, KC may not be ready to rock with the legends. Records can be deceiving, and KC fans shouldn’t pack the big coats and book their tickets to NY quite yet. It appears their math is still kind of fuzzy, and champion class is still in session.