Offensive, defensive and special teams keys of the Kansas City Chiefs against the Cincinnati Bengals.
There are a lot of matchups of interest in any football game. That’s the case for the Chiefs offense this Sunday. But there’s one matchup that will play a major factor in the chances of the Chiefs to beat the Bengals.
That’s the interior trio on the offensive line, Ben Grubbs, Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif playing against Cincinnati’s defensive-tackle duo Domata Peko and Geno Atkins.
The Chiefs offensive line has struggled for continuity through three games and that’s no surprise given that Grubbs, Morse and Duvernay-Tardif are first-year starters in K.C.’s offense.
Opponents have 14 sacks against the Chiefs and that ranks as the most porous pass protection in the league. Morse and Duvernay-Tardif are essentially rookies and they’ve had problems at times in all three games. Grubbs is an NFL veteran, but he was overwhelmed by the Green Bay pass rush last Monday night.
Most teams don’t see much sack production from the interior of their defensive line, but Atkins has two sacks in three games and the Bengals duo helps control opposing running games; the Bengals are No. 5 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 76.7 yards per game.
If Peko and Atkins overwhelm the Chiefs interior trio, then edge pass rushers Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry will have one-on-one access to Alex Smith and that would not be good for the Chiefs quarterback.
Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has continued to grow into a premium NFL quarterback. In three games this season, he ranks only behind Aaron Rodgers in most of the passing statistics used by the NFL. Dalton’s 121 passer rating is topped only by Rodgers.
The Bengals are not afraid to take the ball deep; why should they be with a quarterback who can deliver the long ball and one of the league’s best receivers in A.J. Green.
Already, Dalton and Green have connected on an 80-yard touchdown play. No. 2 wide receiver Marvin Jones has a 45-yard touchdown catch from Dalton. That’s doesn’t even account for tight end Tyler Eifert, who is second on the club in receiving with 13 catches for 153 yards.
Green and Eifert each have three TD receptions and Jones has two – that’s eight scores among those three or twice the number of touchdown catches the Chiefs have. Green averages 18.6 yards a catch and Jones is at 17.9 yards every time he has the ball in his hands.
The return of cornerback Sean Smith comes at an opportune time for the Chiefs defense. Smith is one of the tallest cornerbacks in the league at 6-3, 218 pounds and is physical match for Green at 6-4, 207 pounds. None of the other K.C. cornerbacks have the physical skills to match Green, so Smith will jump right into the fire.
But it will also be key for Marcus Peters on the other corner and for safeties Ron Parker, Eric Berry and Husain Abdullah to handle Eifert in the middle of the field.
The Chiefs must win the kicking game or they’ll have no opportunity to grab a victory in Cincinnati. They face a tough match against the Bengals, who have solid specialists in kicker Mike Nugent and punter Kevin Huber and two very good returners in Pacman Jones and Brandon Tate.
Over his career, Jones has five punt return touchdowns, but none on kickoffs. Tate has scored three times on both kick and punt returns. Right now, Jones is averaging 25.7 yards a kickoff return and Tate has a 10.8-yard average.
Dave Toub’s special teams have allowed a long kickoff return of 36 yards, but on covering only three kicks so far, they are giving up 28.3 yards each time. That ranks them at No. 23 in the league in kickoff coverage. To keep Pacman under control, they need kicker Cairo Santos to just bang every opportunity into the first row of the seats and make the Bengals go 80 yards.
Against the Packers, the Chiefs got a nice 54-yard kickoff return by Knile Davis. But so far out of 20 overall punt and kick returns, that’s the only one they were able to break. A return touchdown always helps a team nudge closer to victory. The Chiefs need one against Cincinnati.
Bob Gretz is the senior editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @BobGretzcom.