Since starting their season 0-5, the Kansas City Chiefs have rebounded with three wins in their last six games.
Complementing the Chiefs’ recent success is a difficult road venue in Arrowhead Stadium. Denver is 1-12 all time in Kansas City during the month of December, with that lone victory coming fifteen years ago during Wade Phillips’ tenure as the team’s head coach.
“We know how difficult this has historically been, not only for the Denver Broncos but for any team, to go into Arrowhead Stadium and to win in December,” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. “We would anticipate a very difficult division game ahead of us this weekend against a team that is continuing to get better as the season progresses.”
Two sparks behind the Chiefs’ progress include a player who wasn’t a big factor early in the season — running back Jamaal Charles — and another who wasn’t even with the team — wide receiver Chris Chambers.
After signing Chambers on Nov. 3 and releasing Larry Johnson on Nov. 9, the Chiefs finished 2-2 in the month of November. One of those two losses came in Jacksonville by a narrow 24-21 margin.
Over the first seven weeks of the season, the Chiefs’ single-game rushing high was Johnson’s 83 yards in a 14-6 win at Washington. Since Johnson’s departure to Cincinnati, Charles has racked up 90 rushing yards in a Week 10 win at Oakland and 103 rushing yards in last week’s loss to the Chargers.
With a 5.2 yards-per-carry average, the Broncos defense is already on notice regarding Charles’ capabilities.
“He’s a tough runner,” Wesley Woodyard said. “We’ve seen plays where guys take shots at him but he refuses to go down. And not only that, his play spreads over to special teams — he gets out there and makes tackles and he’s a good returner. So we have to make sure we can’t let him get in the game this week.”
Having that versatile weapon has opened up Kansas City’s passing game. Quarterback Matt Cassel’s options have been boosted by his rapport with Chambers.
Over those four November games, Chambers hauled in 17 catches for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Of those 17 receptions, five went for 20-plus yards and 13 went for first downs.
“He has added a playmaker to their offense, without question,” Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said of Chambers. “He has been a guy that the quarterback feels confident in on a short notice.”
From working with him over the last four seasons in New England, McDaniels got a first-hand look at Cassel’s confidence. With him under center, the Chiefs have played competitively, as three of their eight losses this season have come by a total of 12 points.
To McDaniels, that stat defines how well this upcoming opponent prepares on a weekly basis.
“What I do know is this team plays hard, has a game plan each week and usually executes that plan pretty doggone well,” McDaniels said. “That’s why they’ve been in a lot of close games, some they’ve won (and) some they’ve lost. It’s like most teams in the league. You change a few plays here or there, you could be talking about a 6-5, 7-4 team instead of a team that doesn’t have that many wins.”
MCDANIELS ISSUES APOLOGY
McDaniels issued the following apology at his press conference Tuesday:
“I am going to just make sure that I apologize to anybody that was offended by the language that I used the other night on the sidelines during the (New York Giants) game,” he said. “I certainly didn’t intend for that to come across in that fashion and would hope that that never happens again. I’ll try my best to make sure that it doesn’t from my end, but anybody who was offended by that, young or old, I know that’s not the kind of example that I want to set or that we want to set here with the Broncos organization. I would ask people to accept that apology for that incident.”
Here are some photos from the start of Tuesday’s practice session:
– Chris Gentilviso, DenverBroncos.com