- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos will see what a difference a week, or two, makes Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium.
The last time the Broncos faced the Kansas City Chiefs, just 13 days ago, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton chose to play to play it straight when deploying his defensive backs against the Broncos wide receivers. And, while that is certainly not an uncommon tactic, to simply leave the left cornerback on the left and the right cornerback on the right, it did allow the Broncos to dictate the matchups they wanted at times.
Especially when it came to Demaryius Thomas. At 6-foot-3, 229 pounds with elite speed, Thomas routinely represents the most difficult size/speed dilemma in the formation for opposing defenses.
And in the first meeting this season, the Broncos moved to Thomas around the formation from time to time, to get him matched up on Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper. As a result Cooper, a seventh-round pick by the 49ers last April who the Chiefs claimed off waivers just before the start of the regular season, often found himself locked up in man coverage on Thomas with quarterback Peyton Manning looking at him.
In a traditional set, when the Broncos are in a two- or three-wide receiver set, Thomas would be lined up to the offensive left, or the open side of the formation. Against the Chiefs that would put him against cornerback Sean Smith, who at 6-3, 218 pounds is both bigger and slightly faster than Cooper. And Smith and Thomas did go head-to-head at times in the Nov. 17 game, but the Broncos often sent Thomas wide to the offensive right, where the Chiefs left Cooper. And that included Thomas’ 70-yard catch-and-run play in the first quarter of that game.
Tight end Julius Thomas also alters the equation as well. When Julius Thomas is in the formation, it is far more difficult for defenses to take a safety out of the middle of the field to help on Demaryius Thomas on the outside or on Wes Welker in the slot.
Julius Thomas did not play against the Patriots this past Sunday night because of a right knee injury and New England was able to send help toward Demaryius Thomas and Welker in a bigger variety of ways than the Patriots would have been able to if Julius Thomas, who is expected to play against the Chiefs, had been in the lineup.
But Sutton is creative and respected around the league, so the Broncos expect to see both what the Chiefs have shown already this season to go with a little something new.
“You study last week’s game they played against [San Diego], but you know that they could easily have an entirely different game plan than what they showed the first time,’’ Manning said. “You prepare for what you see on film but also there are definitely a lot of what ifs that could take place.”