Nov 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Ronnie Brown (23) tries to go over the top for more yards as Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (99) and Denver Broncos outside linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) make the stop at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Why Broncos' Defense Needs to Turnover Alex Smith

One positive to take away from Sunday’s sloppy 28-20 win over the San Diego Chargers is that the Denver Broncos can win road games against average teams despite failing to create a turnover on defense and finishing with a negative turnover margin.

This result may be considered a good trait, especially come playoff time, however it leaves one colossal question lingering as the team enters its pivotal AFC West showdown this weekend against Kansas City — can Denver’s defense force a turnover against the league’s best game manager?

The pundits can talk X’s and O’s all they’d like this week, but what will likely determine the outcome of this closely-contested primetime showdown is turnovers. Who can protect the ball and who can force the opponent to make a mistake in a critical situation?

So far this season, the turnover battle has been Denver’s weakest area as a whole and something that needs improvement in the final seven regular season contests as a primer for the playoffs, where turnover margin is the most important stat in crowning a Super Bowl champion.

The Broncos, who have finished only one game with a +2 turnover margin during their torrid 8-1 start, are likely to turn the ball over at least once, if not more, against the vaunted Chiefs defense that has copious amounts of ballhawks — safeties Quintin Demps and Eric Berry, cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith, and pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston (20 combined sacks) — all of whom have multiple turnovers this season.

Not to mention, Kansas City’s defense boasts infamous Bronco-killer Derrick Johnson, who leads the team with 60 solo tackles and 5 tackles for loss, and the emerging defensive tackle phenom Dontari Poe. 

All of this is entirely independent of what will actually happen Sunday when the league’s highest-scoring offense takes on the league’s best scoring defense in what is climaxing to be a classic  battle of offense versus defense.

Nonetheless, turnovers will still prove to be the key, which means the Broncos must pressure quarterback Alex Smith out of the pocket and force him to throw the ball deep down field, where he is less effective and more likely to make a crucial mistake.

However, the first step is trying to shut down Jamaal Charles, who is enjoying a career season and will likely compete against Peyton Manning for league MVP honors at the end of the season. If Charles runs wild on the Broncos front seven, then it could be a long day for the defensive unit as a whole, as it will give Smith the cushion he’s been working with all season and that no opponent has been able to take away from the Chiefs thus far.

Denver’s chances of winning the game, and taking control of the AFC West, are significantly higher if Smith is tasked with having to beat them without a supporting ground attack. If this scenario does play out Sunday, then it will obviously be favorable for the home team; however, it won’t necessarily mean the Broncos will walk away victorious.

If the fumbling problem on offense carries over — no pun intended — into this weekend’s matchup, then the Broncos defense will have to find a way to compensate, regardless of how Smith and Charles are performing.

What the Broncos will need is tight, pressing coverage up front in the secondary, denying the Kansas City wideouts anything short and placing the onus on the Chiefs to beat them deep, if Charles can’t get going.

When, and if, Smith to take a few chances down the field, the defense must capitalize on what has to be considered their most favorable matchup — Chiefs wide receivers vs. Denver’s corners, even without Champ Bailey — this week.

A Denver interception or two — or a forced fumble — will change the complexion of the game greatly, because it will pin the Chiefs defense on short rest against Manning and will create a situation where Alex Smith and Co. will have to play from behind, something they aren’t quite used to doing this season.

Regardless of how many points are scored and who comes away victorious, the first of two heavyweight bouts between the Broncos and Chiefs won’t uproot the old phrase “defense wins championships.” At the end of the day, if Kansas City wins the turnover battle 1-0 — similar to what San Diego did to Denver this past weekend — then the results won’t be too kind for Denver.

In order to keep playing at this level, with this much at stake week in and week out, turnovers must be the name of the game for the Broncos.

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Tags: Alex Smith Defense Denver Broncos Peyton Manning Turnovers

  • Jason Seibel

    I am an assistant editor over at Arrowhead Addict and I like to come here from time to time to see “how the other half live” so to speak. I just wanted to tell you that this was the most well thought out, best article I’ve ever seen on this site. While I won’t wish you luck for Sunday’s contest, I will say “great piece” and well done.

    • Tim Johns

      I didnt say the broncos played anyone special did I? nope. But, lets take a look at who KC has played, how many 1st QBs have they faced this season, they even said it on NFL network last night. Four teams in a row, 2nd string QBs. And sorry, but you know as well as I do if you checked your information, SD is not a slouch team, Rivers is having one of his better seasons so far, and you guys keep forgetting that Denvers defense, especially run defense is one of the top 10. KC is only ranked 10th in the league in yards allowed, scoring they are up there 1 or 2, but who have they played that has a starting QB that has been the caliber of Romo, Rivers, Flacco, Luck, who? name one team, just one that the QB is even above average? You almost lost to the 3rd string QB at Buffalo, Cleveland had you beat with their 2nd stringer, but just stupid mistakes that Manning generally doesnt make. And also, come on man! as you say, really, do you have the WRs that Denver does, are you seriously going to compare Alex Smith with Peyton? You have one legit WR, 1, we have four, really five if you put Tamme in there who is legit. So, you, Come on Man! ,for someone that is an assistant editor should have his facts straight on this,

      • Tim Johns

        And one last thing, before I get back to my real job, if Den beats KC, then beats NE, and SD again and KC, and KC has to play INDY, and you pointed it out yourself, who does KC play, before and in the future that is in the same league as Den? you dont play no one, lets see you play NE, you say Balt is not good, really, well, play them. But you dont. You play many weak teams based on the previous years schedule. Will that help you in the playoffs? no. If you had to play NE, or NO, game over. Reid always gets outcoached when it comes to playing the bigger teams. Look at his coaching history? Sure he has a ton of wins, but he chokes and gets conservative, which he is even now. I cant wait, All I said was and was specific in saying is that if KC gets pressure, then KC has a great shot, but if they dont, and you blitz Manning with those weapons, good luck. if Denver scores 21 points, you lose. You are building your season off a a so-far good defense, but lets see what your defense does against a high caliber offense.

        • Jason Seibel

          Do you understand how the NFL schedule works? The Chiefs and the Broncos play the exact same teams..except two. In this case the Broncos play the Pats and Ravens. The Chiefs played the Browns and Bills. If you want to debate the difference in those two teams, we can. However, the rest of their schedule is identical. The only difference? The Chiefs have beat all the teams they were supposed to lose to. The Broncos haven’t.
          I’m not comparing Smith to Manning. Not at all. But the Chiefs defense (which is the best in the league in the only stat that matters, scoring) was built to beat the Broncos. The secondary is elite and the pass rush is the best in the league. The Broncos let the Cowboys hang 45 on them. The Chiefs allowed 16. The Bronocos allowed the Jags…THE JAGS?!? to hang 19 on them. The Chiefs allowed 2. Oh wait…they shut out that morbid offense.
          And if you want to talk about choking when the big games are on the line, you should probably keep that door closed. Manning is the king of choking when it matters. Baltimore last season anyone???
          This will be a game for the ages without a doubt. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ve got it all wrapped up because you have “Old Man Winter” under center. Good luck.

        • Tra Tha Chief

          “but yet, they have played better teams than KC has”…. you said that in your first post… that is saying that Denver has played better teams than KC…. Now lets break down a couple other far off points you commented on…. the ravens just got beat by the same second string quarterback you are condemning in Jason Campbell and the browns… also how did we barely win that game? we were up 20- 10 at halftime lol and only gave up 7 points the entire second half…. They tried to come back but failed…. You also say, “who have they played on the caliber of Romo, Rivers, Flacco”…. well you must not have a clue about the chiefs or cant read our schedule because we beat ROMO lol and he didn’t throw for nearly the 500 yards he threw against you and your broncos…. Flacco is having a bad year but another quarterback that is better than Flacco is ELI MANNING lol…. both having bad years but still both capable quarterbacks…. another quarterback the chiefs beat when the eagles were averaging 33 points a game was Michael Vick…. So what in the world are you talking about…. you then go on to criticize Case Keenum when he did something your peyton manning couldn’t do and that’s get a lead on Indy and came closer to beating indy than the broncos did lol…. So do your research buddy because you look foolish just saying the term back up quarterback and not looking to see what these quarterbacks have done to other teams…. and also with the bills we didn’t struggle to beat them either we outscored them 20-3 in the second have that’s a dominant performance…. The broncos should be terrified of the chiefs especially since the chargers just held them to 28 points because if they could do that to you then the chiefs can hold them to what they have held every team under this year and that’s 17 and also for some reason you come up with the point that if Denver scored 21 they win why? we averages 24 points per game…. see you facts just don’t make sense so they are truly fiction…. you say the chiefs haven’t played a high caliber offense what in the world are the Eagles or Dallas…. the eagles are the 4th best scoring offense in the league lol…. wow im crushing you on this response lol…. Okay lets move on to disprove another one of your pointless claims…. the chiefs don’t have legitimate threats in the receiving corp like the broncos… you are correct because we aren’t built to play like the broncos lol…. we run the ball not pass the ball why would we have so many studs in the receiver core if we are always running the ball lol…. but what you fail to see in your argument you prove another one of our points and that you might have better receivers than the broncos but you don’t have an advantage when it comes to head to head match ups…. so Our DB’s vs you WR’s…. now do your research on this if you choose…. we have 3 great cornerbacks to go up against your 3 “great” wideouts…. we have marcus cooper is ranked as a top ten cornerback by profootball focus to guard decker which decker has been played by drops this year anyways so I not scared of that match up and btw hes a 7th round rookie and watch how he’ll lock down decker and he is 6 ft 2 so size wont be an issue…. moving on to D.thomas we have a 6ft 3 top 20 cornerback in sean smith to handle him…. he has shut down multiple wrs this year and he has the size to deal with d.thomas…. going on to your uncoverable wes welker…. we have another top 20 cornerback in Brandon flowers who is a probowler who has been covering slot receivers all year…. wes welker wont be a problem for Brandon flowers….. and now you want to get on to surprise star TE J.Thomas well we have a couple of people who can guard him one is our star muti probowler in Eric berry know for covering big agreesive te’s or Derrick Johnson another multi- probowler know for the same thing his coverage skills…. see if you don’t get it yet you wont get it at all…. We match up with your offense perfect and this is what our team has planned for but have you planned for the rest of our defense when your receivers aren’t releasing from the jams or are blanketed by our many other safeties and cornerbacks we have on our roster…. we play dime and sub formation more than any other team in the league so defending the pass is our speciality lol…. if you think San Diego was able to rough up manning then why don’t you think the chiefs will be able to…. Your number one run defense is skewed by your success to put up points on your offense buddy…. If a team is up by two or three scores than what is the other team going to do? they would resort to passing the ball not running it…. I guarantee we will run your defense but of course that is what you are expecting us to do so we wont come out trying to do that we will pass straight down the field on that porous unit you call a defense…. who has given up the 6th most passing yards in the league and 8th most points in the league…. You lost to colts you got dominated by them…. you were down 21-7 to Washington…. and have been down by multiple scores multiple times this year and the chiefs NEVER have…. But yet you still believe the chiefs are not on the same level as the broncos well that is fine….. We see that you are already making your excuses just in case if you lose this week…. Broncos fan say, ” manning is beat up hes limping at the end of a game blah blah.” yeah that’s what you guys will try to use as an excuse we are gonna make manning look so old you guys are gonna wonder if he should sit in the second game vs the chiefs…. If you are scared about him getting beat up for the rest of the year take my advice sit him this game because Dontari Poe Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are coming for him and coming for their respect…. CHIEFS win 31-17 the broncos have 3 turnovers and we run all over your vaunted rush D lol

          • Tim Johns

            well, time will tell. I love the enthusiasm in your words, but your offense is not even average at best. You have Charles who has only rushed for 100 yards ONCE this season, he is also your best WR. Now, the reason I bring up the teams you played is that those QBs who are not even in the same level of a Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, what do you think he is going to do, not scheme against all the tape so far about your defense. Its not like its a huge secret that all of the sudden Manning is going to turn into Vick, he is a pocket passer, pressure is the only, repeat only way you can beat him. And even then, KC is going to have to score at least 21-24 pts to beat Denver. Point blank. You better hope Peyton doesnt hang 21 on you in the first half, otherwise, its going to be a blowout. KC does not scare Manning. But I can tell you this, your DC is concerned, how do you cover those 4 WRs, and then make sure you can maintain the inside for Moreno? How do you it, man to man coverage, go for it. In 7 years, all this time, as also a Colts fan, the one guy that always killed us, and to me he is almost uncoverable, is how do you stop Welker. You dont think Brady didnt live and die with the dink and dunk passes to Welker cause you put LBer on Welker, really. He has broken many a hearts over the years and he is the key. How do you cover him. So what, he is not a deep threat, Manning has never been known as a deep threat QB, 20 years watching him, back in the day, sure he could throw it farther and tighter, but he got smarter, just like Brees is, Rodgers and Brady. Coverages will break down, and you dont think that Manning isnt going to get rid of the ball fast enough, his times throughout this season alone, is less than 3 seconds on average, 2nd fastest in the league. KC has not played a team like Denver, there is a reason why Denver is 8-1, and the fact that in that loss, as well as the defense covered on man to man, no zone, and the pressure Manning got, he sacked 4 times, he still put up 33 points. Thats a fact. Man I have been watching NFL football for over 45 years now. And I have seen some great QB play, I still maintain that Dan Marino was in a league of his own, I dont count a ring to say he was one of the greatest. Thats like saying just because Barry Sanders never won a ring, doesnt disqualify him as the second best back to play the game outside of Brown. Manning, is in that discussion. The man is an OC on the field, that just happens to have the most weapons he has ever had. And you guys keep forgetting that your offense is not that good, and Denver does have a decent defense, no, its not KCs, but dont count out Miller, Ayers, Phillips, Jackson, Wolfe, and our inside which is where Charles makes his money. I think it could one of two games, its either going to be close, or its going to be a blowout and show that KC is way over rated. We will see. Stop the comparisons of QBs, I brought them up in reference to the fact they put up numbers that were signs of your defense is not as touted as it seems. KCs defense, not even close to what the Ravens of 2000 was. not even close. And Manning, owned that team for years. You dont have a Ray Lewis there. You have one of my guys since he is all UT VOL, Eric Berry and he is the real deal. But he is one person. Poe is good, no doubt, Houston, sure, very good. But expect a lot of 2 tight end formations to help chip block and open the lanes, manning has no problem throwing the ball 50 times in a game when he is getting 5-10 yards every completion. you dont have to throw the ball deep to win. You as a KC fan cant expect a 2-12 team from last year to all of the sudden be a powerhouse. Your biggest downfall, will be, not a player, but a coach, a tiger never changes it stripes, he is conservative (look at your offense) and he doesnt take chances. he is not a Sean Payton, or Belichick. Good luck and we will all know come Sunday night. if KC wins, then good on ya, you got it, You were right, but dont cry if Peyton and Co. put up a cool 45 points on your vaunted defense.

          • Tra Tha Chief

            So you were wrong on almost all of your predictions…. Except the close game assumption…. You say we don’t have a ray lewis but we do have a hall of famer so I would beg to differ in Derrick Johnson…. we obviously ran all over your team our team averaged 5.9 yards per carry just like I said we would do…. the problem we had on offense was dropped passes aka the 40 percent completion rate…. Manning I wouldn’t say beat us since he had argurably his worst game of the season…. I would say your Offensive line impress. They had a major task in stopping our pass rush and succeeded so hats of to you and yours…. but to throw out a couple of other topics you commented on…. we also have tamba hali who leads the league in pressures on quarterbacks and has multiple probowls as well…. and you seen what we did to welker like is said we aren’t scared of him…. we have a probowl corner who harassed him all night in Brandon flowers and the only catches he got were off pick routes… now Demarrius Thomas murdered our rookie cornerback which by the way I don’t know why we didn’t switch that match up up at half time….. but also another issue I seen in the came that you kinda of brought up for the offensive was the conservative play calling but not for our offense for our defense…. we only blitz more than 5 players a couple of times on the whole night and when we did manning felt the pressure…. so I don’t know what our coaching staff was doing they should of took some shots and left the dogs off the leash…. but anyhow great game cant wait for the rematch in two weeks…. hopefully then we will capitalized on the dropped passes and failed interceptions that the chiefs usually get…. and btw the that 2-12 reference and how good I think we should be after doing that the year before…. well first ill reference your colts who just did the same thing but to a lesser extent last year…. and what did they do to change that team back to a winner was get a qb who can play…. the chiefs did the same thing we got a quarterback who doesn’t turn over the ball unlike what we had last year in cassell who is 3rd string for the Vikings and brady Quinn who isn’t even on a football team this year…. but also last year the chiefs were not a bad TEAM they had a bad quarterback…. we lost 7 games by 8 points or less last year and that’s including one to peyton manning at arrowhead and that wont happen this year in arrowhead…. GO chiefs!!!!

      • Leon Ritz

        You do realize KC played Romo don’t you. Why would someone need to name a player the caliber of Romo when KC played Romo himself. Oh and BTW KC held Romo and the Cowboys to 16 not the 48 Denvers D gave up to him. So please before you run your mouth about someone getting their facts straight please get yours in order

  • Tim Johns

    I believe there are two sides to this. One, this article is true, but to me, not to necessarily have Smith have a turnover, but pressure him and contain Charles can win this game. I dont believe KC has the offense to match Denver, it seems all the sudden that Den is no longer a dominant team, but yet, they have played better teams than KC has. Sure, they got beat by INDY who is a darn good team until Wayne got hurt. And, being a long time Colts fan, but more a Manning fan, the colts were really good. But you see what happened to them losing Wayne, now, if you take out Charles, and I am sorry, he has not run up the yards on teams that are what I would call in the same league as a APeterson type numbers. To say that Charles is in the MVP run and compare him to what Peyton is doing, really. Anyway, Charles is truly an impact back, there is no denying that. But, he is going to have to run better than he has to win this game. And take away Bowe, and what else does Smith have? I give credit to KC and that defense, no doubt one of the best, but I wont say they are the best. I still say Seattle is. The one thing that every DC knows out there, and its no secret, my goodness, Peyton has been in the league for 16 years now, and I am a UT VOL and the same applied there too, get pressure on him, and he will make mistakes. he over thinks it sometimes. But, if you dont get pressure on him, and you have to cover Welker who I still say is un-coverable, then throw in there DThomas, JThomas, Decker, and if your front four doest get that inside pressure, then you have Moreno. Maybe its trying to hype the game, but I will say this, if it gets into a scoring match, KC loses big. No way Smith can match Manning, even at 80%, Manning is still the much better QB than Smith is. It doesnt matter that Manning cant be mobile, he is and always will be a statue out there. Thats no surprise. I expect it to be one heck of a game, but, as I said earlier, if KC doesnt pressure him, it could be ugly really fast. Denver can score in 60 seconds, Can KC? on multiple times with their offense? Not likely. But, I will say this, Kudos to what the coaching has done there, and the team has come together a lot more than anyone thought they would. I have to give profs to Berry naturally, UT and all. Lets have some fun.

    • Jason Seibel

      Other than the Colts who the Chiefs will play in 5 weeks, what harder teams have the Broncos played? I’ll answer for you because you obviously don’t know. They haven’t. The only other team the Broncos have played is the Ravens who are terrible this year. Come on man!