KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The high-flying Chiefs average a league-best 37.1 points per game, but Broncos head coach Vance Joseph says it isn't the misdirection and trickery of the offense that poses the biggest challenge, but that each personnel group presents a different philosophy for which to strategize.
When they're in 21 when they're in two backs, one tight, two receivers, it's a different offense,” Joseph said. “When they're in two tights, two receivers, one back, it's different offense. When they're in three wides, one tight, one back, it's a college offense. So it's really three different offenses to prepare for, so that makes it really difficult.”
The Broncos coach knows the Chiefs offense with Patrick Mahomes under center better than anyone. Mahomes makes his ninth career start on Sunday, and this will be his third against the Broncos.
Joseph also said elements including the jet motions, reverses and shovel passes of head coach Andy Reid's offense make it tough to defend against because it turns into a game of assignment football.
"This league is really based on winning one-on-ones,” Joseph said. “But when you're playing this offense, it's really about winning one-on-ones, but also it becomes quickly and assignment game. If anyone misses an assignment, it can be a big play at any moment.
“It's a challenge to prepare for this offense because of what they do schematically, and when you add the speed and the weapons and a young quarterback playing at a high, high level, it makes it a difficult challenge.”
Two players also increase the difficult in defending the Chiefs, Joseph said. He point toward receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce as players his team has had trouble defending in the past. He said Hill looks more polished as a receiver than he was even a year ago.
“This guy's explosive, he can really stop and start, which makes his a great route runner, and he can catch the ball in traffic, which is really, really rare for little receivers,” Joseph said. “Tyreek and probably Antonio Brown are the two little guy who can really finish in traffic down the field, and that's a special trait.”
Joseph called Kelce “a matchup nightmare.”
“He's probably too fast for every linebacker in the league and he's probably too big for most of the safeties,” Joseph explained. “What you have to do is when he's out of the core, you treat him as a wide receiver, that way you can play top-down coverage but if you don't, again he will make a big play.”
And making the Chiefs offense go is Mahomes, whom Joseph praises for his ability to keep his vision focused down field outside the pocket.
“Most young guys when they break the pocket, they're looking to run the football and gain 4 or 5 yards and slide,” Joseph said. “He is not. He's trying to stay behind the line and make a big play down field. And the problem with this guy, he can throw the ball across his body moving left or moving right. How do you combat that? You simply can't.”
The Broncos gave the Chiefs a fight in Denver in Week 4 before Kansas City rallied to emerge on top 27-23. Joseph can't lean on the same strategy they deployed four weeks ago and hope to come away with a win.
“I told our guys this morning, what we did last time was play good enough football to lose the game,” Joseph said. “We can't go in with the same plan and the same mindset. We have to do more, we need a better plan, we have to play better, we have to make more plays.”