KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The shell-shocked looks on the faces of their defensive backs from the weekend were gone Wednesday as the Kansas City Chiefs began preparations for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.
But whether their confidence has returned is another matter. A once-punishing defense has lost its swagger, and it's fair to wonder if the cornerbacks are finally buckling under the pressure of playing constant man-to-man coverage.
"I don't think so," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "To play cornerback in the National Football League ... you have to have a lot of things. You have to have ability, you have to have great technique and probably the most important quality is you've got to be a tough-minded individual. Every play that happens to you, you want to learn something from and then you want to move on quickly whether it's good, bad or indifferent.
"I don't see them cracking. They're interested in going out there and challenging again."
The Chiefs allowed six pass plays of 20 yards or more in last week's 41-38 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Perhaps more disturbing was that they allowed San Diego receivers a cumulative 228 yards after making a catch.
The Chiefs in particular had trouble covering San Diego's liberal use of shallow crossing routes.
"We play man coverage," said one of the cornerbacks, Sean Smith. "You're going to lose some battles. There are certain schemes and certain routes that are tough to cover in man coverage."
The Broncos are the league's highest scoring teams and ran their share of crossing routes in their 27-17 win over the Chiefs two weeks ago. They undoubtedly noticed Kansas City's problems in covering them against the Chargers and will try those routes Sunday until the Chiefs stop them.
It will certainly help the Chiefs and their cornerbacks if they can get some pressure on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. They didn't sack him at all two weeks ago. They got to San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers just once last week.
They played much of last week's game without their top two pass rushers, injured outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Hali didn't practice but looks as if he could play Sunday. Houston's availability Sunday is unlikely.
"You have to be able to contest the throws of these players, especially these guys like Peyton and Rivers," Sutton said. "If you don't challenge those throws and you don't challenge those receivers a good portion of the time, it's too easy for them. They're too good, they're too skilled."