It’s halftime of the Chiefs’ Monday night showdown against Denver, and they lead the Broncos 17-3 at Arrowhead Stadium. Here is Chiefs beat writer Terez A. Paylor’s quick analysis.
1. The Chiefs’ decision to start Kenneth Acker is interesting
After getting lit up for 417 passing yards vs. Oakland on Oct. 19, the Chiefs decided to shake things up by benching Phillip Gaines and Terrance Mitchell in favor of Kenneth Acker and Steven Nelson. I was not surprised by the decision to bench Gaines, who has had some tough moments in coverage from the slot and is best suited to be an outside corner. But I am surprised by Mitchell’s benching. Yes, he’s been beaten, but he’s also the most targeted corner in the NFL, and I think he competes hard. He’s also tied for the team lead in interceptions with two. I’m not really ready to sell Mitchell stock. Nelson is the Chiefs’ second-best corner, for sure, but I’d be surprised if this is the last we’ve seen from Mitchell.
2. Peters’ strip-ball trait finally pays off
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Marcus Peters has spent the last month or so eagerly, and aggressively, trying to strip every ball carrier that enters his radius. He has missed some tackles because of that, but every once in a while, it turns into a good thing. His first quarter strip and scoop of former Chief Jamaal Charles resulted in a touchdown that gave the Chiefs an early 7-0 and provided an early boost to a defense that has simply not created enough turnovers. Peters still needs to go for the safe tackle more, but the strip was an example of why he continues to go for the big play.
3. Alex Smith is officially a deep-ball thrower
The Broncos must not have watched 2017 Alex Smith tape. You play single-high coverage against Smith, and he’s going up top. He’s already attempted a ton of long passes tonight, connecting on many of them. He finally looks comfortable uncorking it deep and making defenses pay for swarming the run game. As long as Smith keeps this up, those MVP discussions are real.
4. The Tyreek Hill interception was a brutal play call, period
For as good as Andy Reid’s playcalling was in the first half, that play call that led to Tyreek Hill’s first career pass — a wobbly floater near the goal line that was easily intercepted — was a bad, brutal, unnecessary call. Period. The Chiefs were moving the ball against the Broncos easily, and Reid got too cute. I’m sure he made the call based on on a tendency he saw, and that’s fine. It would have been celebrated if it worked. But it didn’t, so he rightfully deserves criticism.
5. The pass rush looked rejuvenated
Justin Houston was very disruptive throughout the first half, and I think the long break did him some good, despite being questionable for the game. It is clear that a healthy-ish Houston is the key to the Chiefs’ pass rush. Well, that and facing a struggling quarterback like Denver’s Trevor Siemian, who is playing behind a bad o-line.