KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has a simple message for his players as they prepare to face Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
“Don’t be the ‘tell,’” Sutton said Thursday. “Don’t be the guy that’s telling him what the coverage is.”
Solid advice, but easier said than done given what happened to the Chiefs pass defense against Manning in 2013.
Manning dissected the Chiefs in two games last season, throwing for 726 yards and six touchdowns against two interceptions.
“I think anytime you are dealing with the Peyton Mannings of the world,” Sutton said, “those elite guys, they’re a great challenge because they have physical skills obviously to get balls in tight quarters, which is challenging in itself. The second part of it is a guy like Peyton is renowned for how much he knows and how well he studies and all that, so that makes it challenging, too.”
Meanwhile, there must be something about facing Kansas City the reigning NFL MVP enjoys.
In 2012 before Sutton arrived in Kansas City, Manning threw for 589 yards and five touchdowns against an interception in two games against the Chiefs.
For his career, Manning is 11-1, including playoffs, against the Chiefs and he has amassed 3,540 yards passing and 24 touchdowns for a 98.3 rating.
Of course, Manning and Denver’s offense are vulnerable as the Seattle Seahawks proved in the last Super Bowl with a physical defense.
But implementing Seattle’s blueprint or whatever the Chiefs have in store likely means maintaining discipline on defense.
“A lot of the game plan is trying to drill down on our techniques and understanding like we’ve talked about with our players,” Sutton said. “You can have these guys pretty tightly covered. A lot of quarterbacks that means he’s going someplace else, whereas with a guy like Peyton that just means he’s going to locate the ball in slightly wider, tighter whatever it is. So you have to play through a whole play no matter how tightly you think you have him covered.”
And the most important aspect is not cluing Manning on the defensive coverage before the ball is snapped.
“He’s done a great job over his career recognizing that,” Sutton said, “so you work hard at that as well. You can’t give Peyton just one thing all the time. It’s hard for any quarterback in our league to do that but he definitely falls in that category.”
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
Rookie kicker Cairo Santos had a shaky professional debut in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans going 1-of-2 on field goals.
The Tulane product hit the right upright on his first attempt, but the ball bounced back between the goal posts for a 35-yard effort. The second attempt from 48-yards hit the left upright and bounced away.
Don’t expect the Chiefs to bail on Santos based on one game.
“The thing about him is if I felt like his confidence or mental aspect wasn’t good, he wouldn’t be here right now,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said Thursday. “I really feel strong about him going forward.”
Still, hitting both uprights in front of the home crowd at Arrowhead Stadium could be attributed to opening-day jitters.
But Toub points out it the shaky start was due to technique.
“He might’ve been a little nervous in the mental aspect of it,” he said, “ but really physically what happened was he was looking. Really, he couldn’t see the kick. His eyeballs were coming up every time he hit the ball. That’s something that can easily be corrected and that’s something we worked on yesterday and we’re going to work on it again today. I think that’ll help him.”
OFFENSIVE LINE HAS ROOM TO GROW
The Chiefs offensive line allowed four sacks on quarterback Alex Smith in Week 1, raising more questions for a unit down starting right tackle Donald Stephenson, who is currently serving a four-game suspension.
Still, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson believes the unit will eventually gel.
“It comes with time,” Pederson said Thursday, “it comes with reps, the more reps they get in practice the better off they’re going to be.”
Pederson points out left guard Mike McGlynn joined the team a day before the preseason finale, but said McGlynn is “getting better” as the weeks have gone by. Pederson said the same of rookie right guard Zach Fulton.
And despite early struggles, the second-year offensive coordinator said the offensive line will become a cohesive unit with each game.
“We saw it last year from the beginning of the season to the end of the season,” Pederson said. “Kind of in that same situation right now. The more time they spend together, even with (offensive tackle) Ryan Harris now having to play a little bit, he’s another one with more reps they will get better and they will gel. And communications is a big part of what they’ll do.”
The Chiefs may have to lean on Harris sooner than later, as Jeff Allen, who started Week 1 at right tackle, missed practice the past two days with an elbow injury.