The Broncos did not get the full experience of the Chiefs offense in Week 2 after Jamaal Charles succumbed to an ankle injury, limiting him to just 4 yards on two carries.
Given Charles' prolific history against Denver -- which includes the second-highest single-game rushing total ever allowed by the Broncos, in a game on Jan. 3, 2010 -- it might have been a relief for the Broncos to see him walk back to the visitors' locker room.
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"He's one of the best backs in the league. He's a very versatile back," said Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall. "He can catch. He can run. He can make you miss. He can run between the tackles, outside the tackles. The guy is an incredible talent. We're going to have our hands full this week. But we have a good plan and we'll get things done."
But the Chiefs kept running. It's not just about Charles, although he presents the most potent threat; it's about Knile Davis, who followed Charles' injury by posting back-to-back 100-yard performances against Miami and New England.
The Chiefs are third in the league in rushing yardage per carry, and fourth in rushing yardage per game. Although Charles has the better yardage-per-carry numbers and is more consistent and explosive, the Chiefs can use him interchangeably with Davis.
KEEPING A DEFENSE OFF-BALANCE
With the Chiefs' vertical passing game struggling and their receiving corps hurting to the point that they had to sign recently released Panthers wide receiver Jason Avant this week, Kansas City could need its entire complement of ballcarriers more than ever.
But it's not just Charles and Davis. It's quarterback Alex Smith who provides a threat that must be taken seriously -- particularly on third down, when he rolls out and has the option to run for the sticks. At 5.5 yards per carry, this can be a successful tactic.
The Broncos' pass rush can generate pressure on the edges, but if they get caught behind Smith, he will take off.
"That's the thing: if you don't have a level rush or you don't have somebody in there waiting as a hole player, so to speak, then he'll take off on a third-and-5, third-and-4, and slide and get the first down," said Marshall, "and we'll still be on the field."
Smith averaged 10.4 yards per carry in the teams' first meeting last year, and worked at an 8.4-yards-per-carry pace on five rushes in their September meeting.
The threat often forces a linebacker to spy on Smith, which removes a defender from downfield coverage or the pass rush, which can create more openings. And while Charles is lethal in space, more often, tight end Travis Kelce is the short option underneath that wreaks havoc.
Kelce possesses startling agility for a man his size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds). Few are better at stopping on a dime immediately after catching the pass, letting the defender sail past, and quickly accelerating to top speed.
He leads the Chiefs with four touchdown receptions -- four more than the collective tally from their wide receivers.
""No, I don't take it into account. I understand it's a stat that is out there but it's a good offense," said Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio.
KANSAS CITY BY THE NUMBERS
- Yards per game: 326.6, 22nd
- Yards per play: 5.32, 21st
- Giveaways: 10, T-3rd
- First-down rate: One every 3.34 plays, 11th
- Third-down conversion rate: 44.6 percent, 6th
- Yards per game: 189.5, 31st
- Yards per pass play: 5.89, 26th
- Sack rate: One per 13.11 pass plays, 22nd
- Touchdown rate: One every 27.23 pass plays, 23rd
- Quarterback hit rate: One per 8.23 pass plays, 12th
- First-down rate: One per 2.77 pass plays, 11th
- Drop rate (per STATS, Inc.):One per 11.14 opportunities, 32nd
- Yards after catch per reception (per STATS, Inc.): 6.15, 7th
- Yards per game: 137.1, 4th
- Yards per rush: 4.70, 3rd
- First-down rate: One every 4.34 carries, 10th
- Touchdown rate: One every 20.06 carries, 1st