AFC West: 2013 Week 13 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

December, 1, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 35-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: With another remember-when day from Peyton Manning, the Broncos put themselves squarely on the inside lane for the AFC West title, with a one-game lead and a season sweep of the Chiefs. The Broncos sit at 10-2 and don’t play a team with a winning record the rest of the way (Tennessee, San Diego, Houston and Oakland).

Stock watch: It has been a bumpy ride at times for running back Montee Ball, including a fumble deep in Broncos territory in the third quarter against New England last weekend that helped fuel the Patriots' comeback and was his third lost fumble of the season. But against the Chiefs, with Knowshon Moreno dealing with a bone bruise in his right ankle, Ball got quality snaps at important times. And his 45-yard run to open the Broncos’ drive with five minutes left in the third quarter was perhaps his biggest jaunt of the season.

A measured return: Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey played for the first time since he left the Week 7 loss in Indianapolis after aggravating a left foot injury. He briefly left Sunday’s game after being hit in the midsection on a tackle, then played largely in the nickel. Kayvon Webster and Chris Harris played much of the time as the corners in the base defense, and in the second half there were times when Harris, Webster and Quentin Jammer played as the three cornerbacks in the nickel. They want Bailey available for the long haul, and had said they may work him into things on a situational basis.

A full Decker: The Broncos came into the game with three players -- Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker -- with at least nine touchdown receptions. But Eric Decker had not really joined the scoring fun, with three touchdowns in the Broncos’ first 11 games -- he had just one catch for 5 yards in the loss in New England. Then Decker manhandled the Chiefs' man coverage, especially rookie Marcus Cooper, and finished with 174 yards and four touchdown catches.

What’s next: The Broncos are fairly battered, with a long list of aching players coming in and kick/punt returner Trindon Holliday having left Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury. They will now have two games in a five-day span, facing Tennessee next Sunday and San Diego on the following Thursday. It’s an important late-season stretch for a team with more than its share of guys in the trainer's room.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 1, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 35-28 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Chiefs lost both games in the season series to the Broncos. While at 9-3 the Chiefs trail the 10-2 Broncos by one game in the AFC West standings, they effectively trail by 1 games, because Denver has the tiebreaker. So the Chiefs would need to finish ahead of the Broncos in the standings to win the division, while the Broncos could finish tied in the standings with the Chiefs at the end of the season and still be the division champion.

Stock watch: The Chiefs again failed to sack Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. They were able to get some pressure on Manning early in the game and affect some of his throws, but that pressure dissipated as the game went on and Manning was able to step into all of his throws. They were frequently asked to cover for too long, but the cornerbacks again had a tough day. That’s particularly true for Marcus Cooper, who was beaten cleanly off the line by Demaryius Thomas on one of the game’s crucial plays. Thomas had a 77-yard catch and run in the third quarter to set up the Denver touchdown that put the Broncos ahead for good.

On offense, wide receiver Donnie Avery dropped a pair of deep passes, and a reserve, A.J. Jenkins, dropped another pass. The Chiefs received some contributions from unexpected places, though. Rookie Knile Davis returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in the first half, the longest such return in Chiefs history and second-longest in NFL history. Wide receiver Junior Hemingway had a pair of catches, including a 17-yard reception for the first touchdown of the game.

Losing steam: The Chiefs had everything going in the first half as they built a 21-7 lead. They came after the Broncos in all three phases with great energy and, with the backing of a loud home crowd, appeared headed for a lopsided victory. The Broncos weren’t matching their intensity. But while Denver put its game into a higher gear, it was the Chiefs who couldn’t sustain the pace. The Chiefs owned the last half of the fourth quarter, but after scoring one touchdown, their final drive stalled and they relinquished the ball on downs at the Denver 13.

What’s next: The Chiefs begin a two-game road trip next Sunday with a game against the Washington Redskins. The Chiefs will finish the road trip on Dec. 15 against the Oakland Raiders.

Rapid Reaction: San Diego Chargers

December, 1, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: The Chargers drop to 5-7 on the season and are now a game out of the final AFC wild-card spot. But San Diego still has a chance to work back into the postseason conversation, with three of its final four games at Qualcomm Stadium.

Chargers give it away: The Chargers' inability to hold on to the football was costly. Twice, veteran tight end Antonio Gates was responsible for a turnover inside Cincinnati territory. Reggie Nelson forced Gates to fumble on San Diego's opening drive, and safety George Iloka recovered. In the second half, Gates had a Philip Rivers pass stripped by Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick for an interception. Receiver Keenan Allen was stripped by Iloka in the fourth quarter, and Vincent Rey recovered. Heading into Sunday's contest, the Chargers had 13 turnovers all season.

Bengals own line of scrimmage: San Diego's defense allowed Cincinnati to grind out 164 rushing yards, as the Bengals' offensive line got a consistent push up front. On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati's defense held the Chargers to 91 rushing yards.

Stock watch: San Diego safety Eric Weddle made a couple of game-changing plays. He corralled his first interception of the season on a poorly thrown ball by Andy Dalton intended for A.J. Green in the first half. And with Cincinnati trying to run out the clock, Weddle recovered a BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumble caused by fellow safety Marcus Gilchrist. The turnover led to a Nick Novak 48-yard field goal.

What's next: The Chargers host the New York Giants next weekend at Qualcomm Stadium in a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

November, 28, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys:

What it means: The rebuilding project continues and, despite an impressive first 28 minutes, the Raiders simply are not ready for the bright lights. Not when the defense fell apart … again. Not when the offense stalled … again. Not when an injury here or there is too much to overcome … again. So, is it a lack of adjustments by the coaching staff, or a lack of quality depth? In any event, the Raiders, at 4-8, will not have a winning season for the 11th straight season. Oakland has now lost five extremely winnable games this season, at Indianapolis, versus Washington, at the New York Giants, against Tennessee and this one.

Stock watch: Rising -- Andre Holmes. The one-time Cowboys project receiver entered Thursday with five career catches for 76 yards. Holmes put on a first-half clinic against Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick, catching four passes for 56 yards after a particularly galling drop. The 6-foot-4 Holmes finished with seven catches for a game-high 136 yards. He seemed to become quarterback Matt McGloin's most dependable target and, after serving a four-game suspension to start the season, seems to be rounding into shape as McGloin's favorite target.

Going soft: Oakland dominated the first 28 minutes as the Raiders built that 21-7 lead. Then, the defense went into a zone “situational” defense that not only energized the Cowboys' offense, but seemed to sap the energy from the Raiders. Consider, during that time the Cowboys had touchdown-scoring drives of 87, 73 and 65 yards, the Raiders had just one first down.

To Ford, really? Jacoby Ford is listed generously at 5-foot-9. So it makes absolutely no sense to throw a fade/jumpball to him, does it? Yet that's exactly what McGloin did midway through the fourth quarter in the right corner of the end zone from the 20-yard line. Brandon Carr, at 6 feet, simply went up and picked off the pass. Bad decision by McGloin. Or, as Raiders radio announcer and two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores said, “The only time you throw it like that to Jacoby Ford, you throw it long and let him run under it.” McGloin also lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line, which led to a Cowboys touchdown.

What's next: The Raiders (4-8) travel to New Jersey for the second time since Nov. 10, this time to take on the New York Jets (5-6 entering this weekend). The Raiders have not won at the Jets since 1996. Plus, the Raiders have lost 12 straight games in the Eastern time zone, dating to Dec. 6., 2009, while getting outscored by a combined 379-198. Oakland is 5-29 in games played three times zones away since Dec. 15, 2002.