Red Zone

Chiefs Blitz: A look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday’s loss to the Broncos

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury after this two-yard run in the first quarter against the Broncos. Charles did not return, and the Chiefs lost 24-17.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury after this two-yard run in the first quarter against the Broncos. Charles did not return, and the Chiefs lost 24-17. The Kansas City Star

Do tell the truth

1. Was this a moral victory?

Players and coaches are quick to say there are no such things in football. But let’s face it, the season opener left a stink that made it impossible to not to expect the worst. For the Chiefs to come out and even come close to beating the Broncos on Sunday changes the mood around the fan base — and probably the players, too. There is reason for optimism. Remember, the Chiefs did this without Derrick Johnson, Joe Mays, Mike DeVito, Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Jeff Allen. That’s six starters, and that doesn’t even count De’Anthony Thomas, who was ticketed for a large role on offense and special teams.

2. So where was this offensive game plan last week?

Hard to say, and we’ll never know. The Chiefs actually outgained the Broncos — the Broncos! — 380 yards to 325 on Sunday, something that did not seem remotely possible following their season-opening stinker against Tennessee. The game plan was much more effective this week, and that was without Charles for most of the game. They got Travis Kelce more involved, they established the running game, and Alex Smith, who completed 26 of 42 passes for 255 yards, seemed much more comfortable.

3. How much does the loss of Eric Berry affect the defense?

The Chiefs are calling Berry’s injury a sprained ankle, which is obviously better than the worst-case scenario (an Achilles’). The club provided no timetable regarding a return, however, which means the Chiefs might have to play without him for a while. Outside linebacker Justin Houston said Berry is the leader of the defense, not just the secondary, and it looks like he’s taken a more vocal role this season. Berry’s aggressiveness, effort and tackling will be missed, but his replacement, Ron Parker, played safety in college and led the Chiefs in tackles Sunday with seven.

4. What about the loss of Jamaal Charles?

When Charles is healthy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-round running back in the NFL. And he could have helped them Sunday. But give Knile Davis credit. He rushed 22 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns and seems much more patient as a runner. He did an adequate job carrying the mail. Charles will absolutely be missed for however long he is out, but as a third-round pick who is now in his second year, it’s certainly not bad to finally see what Davis can do.

5. Can the Chiefs continue to play this well going forward?

I don’t see why not. I still don’t know why their season-opening performance was so poor, but they showed a lot of heart Sunday because they had plenty of chances to fade away and never did. Denver’s propensity to shoot itself in the foot with penalties didn’t hurt, but the offensive game plan looked coherent and the defense came up with a big third-down stop late in the game after being gashed by Peyton Manning all day. If the Chiefs play like this next weekend against Miami, they could be staring at their first win of the season.

The number

5: The number of consecutive times the Broncos have beaten the Chiefs with Manning at the helm.

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TerezPaylor.

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