AFC West: 2013 Week 11 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 11

November, 18, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Chiefs' 27-17 loss to the Broncos:

Offensive line shuffling: The Chiefs finished the game with substitutes playing on the right side of the offensive line due to injuries to starting guard Jon Asamoah (calf) and right tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder). The Chiefs don't lose a lot in terms of production with the backups (guard Geoff Schwartz, tackle Donald Stephenson) in the lineup, but if Asamoah and Fisher don't play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium, it hurts the Chiefs in terms of continuity. One area of possible growth for the offense over the final four games is improvement on the line. The chances for that decrease if the Chiefs have new bodies at two different positions.

Scoring woes: The Chiefs scored their first second-half offensive touchdown in four games on Sunday, but that happened within the last five minutes, with the Broncos holding a comfortable lead and willing to allow a long, time-consuming drive. Kansas City's second-quarter offensive touchdown was its first in seven quarters. This is a problem the Chiefs will have to learn to live with. They've struggled to score touchdowns all season when the defense and special teams are chipping in with scores of their own. The Chiefs scored just two touchdowns on four trips inside the Denver 20. One time the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal after having a first down at the Denver 2. Another time the Chiefs came away with no points at all after losing a fumble.

Big deficit: The Chiefs don't make many big plays on offense, and it wasn't certain how they would respond to falling behind by double digits because before Sunday night, they had never faced that situation this season. Predictably, it didn't go well. Quarterback Alex Smith completed fewer than half of his pass attempts, and in the second half the Chiefs had just one completion of more than 21 yards.

Commings plays: Rookie defensive back Sanders Commings played for the first time this season. Commings got in a few snaps at cornerback in place of Marcus Cooper after Cooper had allowed a couple of long passes. Look for Commings to get more playing time as the season wears on. He was challenging for playing time when he broke his collarbone during the first training camp practice in July.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 11

November, 18, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – An examination for four hot issues from the Denver Broncos27-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeQuentin Jammer
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesQuentin Jammer's playing time has been on the rise, and on Sunday night he recovered a fumble.
Jammer jammin’: In the first seven games of this season, Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer played all of one play on defense -- one snap against the Eagles in Week 4. But interim coach/defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has said he will try to find a place for those he believes can contribute on game day, and the Broncos like the veteran Jammer’s savvy and physical play. Jammer was on the field for 19 plays against the Redskins in Week 8 and 33 plays against the Chargers last week, and he was in a regular rotation Sunday night, often appearing in the Broncos’ big nickel look when they went with five defensive backs.

Decker on the spot: With Wes Welker having suffered a concussion Sunday night, Eric Decker might need to show a little more versatility. Welker has worked almost exclusively out of the slot this season, save for an occasional snap when he has lined up out wide or in the backfield, and Decker would have to fill that role if Welker misses some time. It means Decker, who has struggled at times with drops, is going to have to be reliable in the high-traffic areas in the middle of the field. The Broncos will still want to run their three-wide-receiver set plenty, and that means Decker has to be up to the task on the inside and Andre Caldwell will have to produce in an outside spot.

Money well spent: After the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil in free agency following the fax disaster, there was at least some concern in the organization over whether they would be able to fill the gap. But a one-year, $1 million deal with Shaun Phillips signed during the weekend of the NFL draft has worked out quite nicely for all involved. Phillips leads the team with nine sacks after he recorded 1.5 Sunday night (along with 10 tackles). He has already earned a $400,000 bonus for getting eight sacks, and he has another waiting if he reaches 10.

Lucky six: When the Broncos selected linebacker Danny Trevathan in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, they hoped they would have a player who could find a role in the team’s speed-first defense. Trevathan, who forced a game-changing fumble in the first quarter Sunday, now leads the Broncos in tackles (81) and is tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) and forced fumbles (two). That’s the kind of late-round value that draft-built playoff teams routinely enjoy, and the kind the Broncos will need to stay in the postseason hunt as they move forward under the current regime.
MIAMI -- An examination of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers' 20-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Playoffs?! You talking about playoffs?! Yes, it’s understood the Chargers, losers of their last three games, are one of six teams at 4-6 and on the outside looking in if the AFC playoffs were to start today. However, San Diego has four of its last six games at home, including four against AFC West opponents, and are just a game out for the final AFC wild-card berth. Either way, the Chargers have an uphill battle to get back into the playoff hunt.

Can poor tackling be fixed? Whether it’s taking better angles, wrapping up or just being more physical, San Diego has to do a better job defensively of getting guys on the ground than it did against Miami. A season-long issue looked the worst it has been against the Dolphins. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Miami tight end Charles Clay finished with a career-high 78 yards after the catch, including 35 on a third-quarter touchdown in which he broke at least four tackles. “It comes down to in the moment just the will to bring someone down,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “Especially when a guy is bigger than you, it’s tough. But you just have to get him down. It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly or not.”

Fluker hangs tough: Rookie first-round draft pick D.J. Fluker predictably struggled at times with speed edge-rushers while starting at left tackle for the first time in place of King Dunlap. Still, the Alabama product hung tough, and has proved versatile with his ability to move over and play left tackle for the Chargers in a pinch. However, San Diego likely will be looking for a left tackle at season’s end. “I wasn’t specifically watching him all the time, but he’s done a heck of a job all year,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said. “I’m very pleased with the way he’s stepped up. The kid’s a competitor. You love the way he approaches every day of work. He shows up just to get better, that’s what he wants to do every day. And he’s going to do whatever we ask him to do.”

McCoy’s worst game as coach: This loss will hurt the most for McCoy when he looks back on his first season as a head coach, because San Diego played a team reeling from off-field issues and could not close the deal in a game the Chargers needed to win. Players said they had a good week of practice and felt prepared. Still, the Dolphins were without three of their five starting offensive linemen, and the Chargers did not play with enough urgency in the final minutes to emerge with a victory against a team that they matched up against talent-wise, scoring a season-low 16 points.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 11

November, 18, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders' 28-23 win over the Houston Texans:

[+] EnlargeRashad Jennings
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRashad Jennings, who rushed for 150 yards Sunday, has made his case to be the Raiders' starting running back -- even after Darren McFadden returns.
Whither Run DMC? Darren McFadden missed his second straight game due to injury, his third this season and his 16th in the Raiders' past 35. He also has 352 yards on the season (3.6 yards per carry). Rashad Jennings, meanwhile, has 340 yards rushing and a 6.0 average ... in his past three games. McFadden, it's been noted, has never played more than 13 games in a season and is in the final year of his rookie contract. Has McFadden's injury history, as well as Jennings' emergence, made Jennings the feature back and McFadden the “change of pace” back going forward, or whenever McFadden and his ailing right hamstring return? “I put a lot on my shoulders and I always want to come out and perform,” Jennings said. “Wherever they place me -- running back, special teams, lining up at receiver -- is cool with me.”

A little something extra: Sure, center Stefen Wisniewski took pride in the strong performance of undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin. That Wisniewski and McGloin share a Happy Valley heritage made it all the more special. “His story's unbelievable,” Wisniewski said. “I've known him since he came to Penn State as a walk-on, beat out three or four scholarship kids to take that job, then comes here as an undrafted free agent, beats out a quarterback [Tyler Wilson], beats out another quarterback [Matt Flynn] and here he's got his first opportunity to start and goes and wins it. Throws three touchdowns, no picks, great job. Really, really happy for the kid, really proud of him.”

Getting off the schneid: The Raiders won their first road game since Oct. 28, 2012, improving Dennis Allen's road record to 2-11. “Obviously, we were all aware of what our road woes have been,” Allen said. “Today was one of those times we were able to pull through and finish it. I'm proud of those guys.” The team the Raiders beat on the road last year? The Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 2-14. The Texans, meanwhile, are riding an eight-game losing streak and sit at 2-8. “It was good for us because we haven't won any games on the road all season,” said free safety Charles Woodson. “We feel like we have let some games get away from us all season long, but it was good for us to close this one out.”

Of explosive plays X: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had six such plays against the Texans: one run, Jennings' 80-yard TD; and five passes, including two McGloin TD passes. Houston had nine explosive plays -- two runs and seven passes, including a touchdown. In 10 games, the Raiders have 70 explosive plays (23 runs, 47 passes), with three TD runs and six passing scores. Oakland's opponents, meanwhile, have 73 explosive plays combined, 16 runs (one TD) and 57 passes (six TDs). It is the first time this season Oakland has trailed its opponents overall.