The Kansas City Chiefs would do well to follow the blueprint established by the Denver Broncos on their way to Super Bowl victories.
The Patrick Mahomes era took off like a rocket. Nobody expected his development to go so quickly. With Mahomes taking the NFL by storm, many fans and pundits alike now consider the Kansas City Chiefs to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders this year.
There’s no denying the Chiefs offense is at a Super Bowl level. What troubles me though is how this offense is generating so much excitement that people are starting to believe the Chiefs defense doesn’t matter much when it comes to championships. If the Chiefs do end up in the Super Bowl this year, it would be unprecedented considering no team ranked 32nd in total defense has ever reached a Super Bowl before.
What we need to do is take a deep breath and look at the big picture.
Less than two months ago, nobody expected to be seriously talking about the Super Bowl and the Chiefs in the same sentence. Before the season began, I predicted the Chiefs would go 8-8 and miss the playoffs for two reasons:
1. The offense was going to be run by a “rookie.” Mahomes’ speedy maturity has erased all of those reservations.
2. The defense. It always seems to come back to the defense, doesn’t it? Ever since the Vermeil years, the Chiefs defense is a never-ending concern. It was already weak last year, and despite the signing of LB Anthony Hitchens along with several players picked up in the draft, they are still last in the league in total defense.
The injuries to Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen have been devastating. Now Justin Houston is out, and the Chiefs are scrambling for help. We all are hoping GM Brett Veach has a secret master plan to fix the Defense. But with less than two weeks left before the trade deadline, fixing the defense this year looks like a tall order.
Trying to imagine a scenario where the Chiefs can somehow trade for more than one impact player without being forced to trade half of their offensive stars seems impossible. This team needs more than one good player. It needs multiple defensive players that are good, and getting rid of talent on offense seems like a counterproductive move.
It’s hard to imagine Reid and Veach doing that. So what are the Chiefs going to do about the defense Of course, the first thing they will do is give the 2018 season everything they’ve got and hope for the best. Then in the offseason, what they should do is dust off the Denver Broncos blueprint for winning the Super Bowl and copy it to a tee.
What exactly is the Denver Broncos blueprint for winning the Super Bowl, you ask?
Let’s unfold the Broncos map to the 2015 Super Bowl Championship and put a magnifying glass on their Defense.
Denver’s Blueprint for a Super Bowl Victory
According to the blueprint, the Broncos master plan began in 2013. (See if you notice any similarities to the 2018 Chiefs.)
The Broncos in 2013 had the most explosive offense in the NFL. They ranked first in total offense. Peyton Manning was breaking lots of records. They scored 606 total points that year. The Chicago Bears were a distant second with 445 total points, which shows the dominance of the Broncos offense that year. (The Chiefs scored 430 points in 2013 if you were curious.)
Meanwhile, the Broncos Defense in 2013 ranked 19th overall. They already had Von Miller—he was drafted in 2011. But they still gave up 399 total points that year. Only ten teams gave up more total points. The Broncos Defense allowed 24.9 points per game on average. (The Chiefs defense allowed 305 points which ranked better than the Broncos but overall, they ranked 24th in total Defense in 2013.)
When you compare the 2013 Broncos and the 2018 Chiefs, you find two teams with similar makeups. The Broncos actually had a better defense in 2013 than the Chiefs 2018 Defense, but at that time, the Broncos were still a generally weak defensive unit that gave up a lot of points.
You might be thinking, “The Broncos were still able to reach the Super Bowl that year, which is pretty awesome!”
Sure, I think we all would like to see the Chief reach a Super Bowl…but do you remember what happened to that Broncos team in Super Bowl XLVIII? They were publically humiliated by the Seattle Seahawks, losing 43-8.
Nobody in the Chiefs Kingdom wants to see our team reach a Super Bowl, only to suffer a humiliating defeat like that. I’m afraid that could happen with this Chiefs defense. Which is why they need to follow the Broncos Blueprint to win it all.
Let’s start looking at what exactly the Broncos did to succeed. First the Broncos went shopping for free agents and hauled in four amazing players. One of those free agents was WR Emmanuel Sanders. (Giving Manning another toy sounds like something Veach would do for Mahomes.) The Sanders signing was significant but not as important as what Denver did next.
Here’s the part Veach needs to follow starting in March: the Broncos organization (despite having a super expensive quarterback on their payroll) somehow found a way to sign three Pro Bowl caliber free agents on Defense. (That’s what you should do when your amazing offense only scores 8 points in the Super Bowl.) I still don’t know how they managed their salary cap to pull this off.
That offseason, the Broncos signed free safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and outside linebacker Demarcus Ware all in one free agency period. These three players dramatically and immediately improved the team’s defense. The next season (2014), the Broncos defense jumped up to third in total defense in the NFL. They made the playoffs, but their master plan was still coming together.
They needed another free agency period to accomplish the mission.
During the 2015 offseason, the Broncos added free agent Safety Darian Stewart to their already potent Defense. Stewart gave Denver 63 total tackles in 2015. The other significant piece to their Super Bowl plan was the free agent signing of former Chief DE Vance Walker. He contributed 32 tackles and two sacks in 15 games that season for Denver.
But wait. There’s more. The Broncos blueprint also requires the draft to add additional talent to the defense.
In the first round of the 2014 draft, they selected CB Bradley Roby, who was promptly named the third cornerback by then Coach John Fox. Roby had 63 tackles, two interceptions and a sack in 2014. During the Super Bowl season of 2015, Roby had 40 tackles and an INT as the third CB. (He also is the guy who picked up the Jamaal Charles fumble and ran it in for the winning TD at Arrowhead in September of 2015).
The next year in the 2015 draft, LB Shane Ray was added to the Broncos already stacked Defense. Ray contributed 20 total tackles and 4 sacks in 2015. He is still playing for the Broncos this year.
And the rest, as they say, is history. The Broncos won their first Super Bowl title in 17 years. That Defense was so good they won a championship despite having a mediocre quarterback. (We watched Manning’s abilities disintegrate quickly during the season.)
That’s it. All the Chiefs need to do is add 7 high-quality players to their defense through free agency and the draft. The good news is this blueprint is possible to replicate. The bad news is that it will probably not get done in one year. And there is little margin for error when it comes to selecting the right players. This process is going to require some patience, a favorable salary cap and choosing the right players.
The patience part might be the toughest of the three. However, let’s not forget how we started this season thinking we were going to need to be patient with the new quarterback. What fans can do is shift their patience from Mahomes to the defense.
What worked for the Broncos Can Work for the Chiefs
Brett Veach and Andy Reid must focus more time, attention and money on their defense if they want to win a Super Bowl with Mahomes. He is an awesome quarterback, but even the great QBs need a decent defense to win a championship.
I believe they will get it done sometime in the next three seasons. Next year is possible, but it will require a significant upgrade in defensive personnel. Imagine what 7 talented defensive players could do for this Chiefs team. They would be the second coming of the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Do you have the patience to follow the Denver Broncos blueprint to winning the Super Bowl? Or do you think defense in the NFL doesn’t matter much these days and the Chiefs offense can carry the team to a Super Bowl title? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Next time, we will take an early look at the Chiefs 2019 salary cap and check out which NFL players will be available in free agency next spring. It’s never too early to start dreaming.