Next Gen Stats explains how Broncos defensive scheme is built to slow down Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes faces Justin Simmons and the Broncos in 2020. Credit: Jay Biggerstaff, USA TODAY Sports.
Patrick Mahomes faces Justin Simmons and the Broncos in 2020. Credit: Jay Biggerstaff, USA TODAY Sports.

One could say the Denver Broncos defense was built to stop the Kansas City Chiefs.

Or, maybe more accurately, Vic Fangio is the perfect play-caller to slow down the Chiefs attack.

That may come as some surprise to those in Broncos Country. Fangio has been tough to watch for most of his tenure in Denver — making questionable challenges and having poor clock management — but the head coach has improved in his third season. Still, some fans hope Fangio is fired at the end of this season, while others are acknowledging his defense is playing at an extremely high level.

Last week, they all but shut down the LA Chargers’ high-flying offense. Patrick Surtain enjoyed two picks, the defensive front racked up 19 pressures on Justin Herbert and the group forced three punts. All of that effectiveness is made more extraordinary considering the team traded away Von Miller and they have two starters currently on injured reserve.

Fangio’s defense is third-best in the NFL in points per game (17.8) and No. 1 in 4th down conversion percentage (27.8); and his two high safeties are the perfect defense against the Chiefs.

As Next Gen Stats points out, the league has started to slow down Kansas City’s offensive attack by using a two high shell. And Fangio’s defense has been in the top-3 usage rate of two high safeties over the last six years. That includes three with the Bears, and his three in the Mile High City.

The Chiefs have been built upon speed on the outside, that’s no secret. Tyreek Hill is the quintessential example of how speed kills outside the numbers. Sammy Watkins was also a threat outside the last two years, but with him gone, there’s still Mercole Hardman who the Broncos will have to keep an eye on.

But, conventional wisdom suggests Patrick Mahomes will be less likely to throw deep, outside the numbers against Fangio and the Broncos this week. Especially when considering Justin Simmons is one of those two high safeties.

Simmons’ 13 interceptions the last three years are most by a safety in the NFL; he’s simply sensational at reading the opposing QB’s eyes and seeing where the ball is going. Plus, he’s picked Mahomes off twice during his career.

For the Chiefs, their offense has cooled off a bit this season to be sure. Last year, Kansas City scored 29.6 points and totaled 303 yards per game. This year, the Chiefs are scoring 25.5 points per, with 290 yards of offense, and a lot of that is due to the NFL being a copycat league.

Teams have copied the Broncos’ success, which includes the last time these two teams met.

Denver had the blueprint for success that day, but sadly turned the ball over twice and lost 22-16. Last year, the Broncos pressured Mahomes well and sacked him once, too. That forced the other-worldly QB to be a bit more off target than in normal games. And the defense forced a punt and three field goals in the first half to give the Broncos a 10-9 lead going into the break.

The defense again bent but didn’t break out of halftime, and the offense answered with a touchdown. That’s right, Denver led 16-12 in the third quarter against KC last year. Oh, and that game was on Sunday Night Football, too, just like this year.

Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to score only one touchdown that game, and they put another field goal on the board to lead by six points late. Meanwhile, the Drew Lock led offense bumbled as they punted twice in crunch time and then he threw the game away on a late interception.

So, the hope this time around is the defense can continue to slow down Mahomes and the Chiefs’ attack, while Denver’s offense protects the ball better and simultaneously scores more points. Fangio’s two high safety scheme is the best to employ against the Chiefs, setting up for what could be a true classic on Sunday Night Football.

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