The Chiefs search for their fourth straight win to start the season on Monday night against the Denver Broncos in Denver, Colo. It would be their third road win of the season.
Here are the keys for a Chiefs victory as well as a scouting report on the Broncos’ coaching staff and scheme.
Four keys to victory
1. Continue to start fast
The Chiefs have not trailed in a game this season, and they’ve outscored opponents 49-6 in the first quarter. Playing from ahead suits them and leaves wiggle room for a defense that has allowed an average of 474 yards per game. Considering the quick-strike ability of the Chiefs’ offense, the Broncos may grind the tempo of the game down and control the ball while keeping Patrick Mahomes and Co. on the sidelines.
2. Red zone defense
The Broncos have only scored on half of their red zone possessions this season, and quarterback Case Keenum has a passer rating of 50.0 in the red zone this season.
Chiefs opponents have scored on 88.9 percent of the red zone possessions (tied for 29th among NFL defenses). This would be an ideal game for the defense to show it can bend and not break.
3. Make Denver’s offense one-dimensional
Forcing Keenum to carry the offensive load seems to work in the Chiefs’ favor. So far this season, he has tossed five interceptions and just three touchdown passes and registered a passer rating of 71.7. If the Chiefs can stifle the two-headed rookie running back monster of Philip Lindsay (198 yards) and Royce Freeman (152 yards), they’ll put the pressure squarely on the passing attack.
4. Protect the football
The Chiefs have committed only one turnover in their first three games of the season, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes has yet to throw an interception. They enter Monday’s game with the fewest giveaways in the NFL. Maximizing the number of possessions becomes pivotal if the defensive lulls which allow opponents to climb back into games continue.
Second-year head coach Vance Joseph is a former collegiate quarterback and teammate of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy at Colorado. He converted to cornerback, which he played for two NFL seasons. He came up through the coaching ranks as a defensive backs coach before becoming the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2016. In his first season at the helm of the Broncos, his defense ranked third in the NFL in yards per game allowed (290.0). So far this season, the Broncos have not scored more than 27 points in any of their first three games.
The Broncos parted ways with Mike McCoy after one season as the offensive coordinator under Joseph. Another former NFL quarterback, Bill Musgrave, took over this season. Musgrave, a student of the West Coast offense, served as quarterbacks coach under McCoy. He’d been touted this offseason as bringing a simplified approach to the offense after McCoy’s complex system that had the Broncos ranked 27th in the league in scoring last season and 29th in yards per play. This season, they’ve averaged 144.7 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per rush. They’ve had just one pass play of 40 yards or more.
A holdover from the previous coaching staff, Joe Woods has served as defensive coordinator the past two seasons after being elevated from defensive backs coach. His secondary anchored the top-rated pass defense in the NFL in 2015 and 2016. The Broncos’ base defense is a 3-4 featuring outside linebackers who serve as edge rushers. Last season, they send five or more pass rushers 36.1 percent of the time (fourth-most in the NFL). They’ve got 25 quarterback pressures and nine sacks through the first three games.