Pass defense had been the Achilles' heel of the Chiefs' defense this season, as opponents had been able to pile up yardage and make big plays against them through the air. That's what makes Sunday's events all the more shocking.
Facing one of the league's most prolific passers in Kyle Orton and an aerial attack that exploded for 299 yards and five touchdowns against them in Week 10, Kansas City put the clamps on the Broncos' passing game Sunday in a tough, grind-it-out win at Arrowhead Stadium, where the team is now 6-0.
Unlike last time, the Chiefs held Denver to a miniscule 86 net passing yards, with 2010 standout WR Brandon Lloyd catching just two passes on 11 targets. Credit for that goes to CB Brandon Carr, who stepped up with Brandon Flowers hurting to shut down one of the league's hottest wideouts, defending five passes.
"Brandon Carr has continued to take big steps and competed today," head coach Todd Haley said after the 10-6 victory. "From the sideline I thought he played a terrific game, as did the rest of the pass defense.
"… You can count on (Carr); he's like clockwork, he'll be there at the same time, in the same spot. There's not a lot of variance and that's a good sign. He's hungry to continue to get better and I think you're just seeing him start to make progress."
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Just when it looked like opponents had exposed a weakness on the Chiefs' defense, the unit comes up with its best performance of the season, frustrating Orton into a 9-for-28 passing day and sacking him four times (two each by OLB Tamba Hali and CB Javier Arenas). If Carr can continue to play at this level and the safeties prevent downfield completions, the defense will be a very formidable group.
It's a positive sign that Kansas City can win even when its run defense is subpar and passing game is held in check. Few people would have believed the Chiefs could win Sunday if WR Dwayne Bowe did not catch a pass and they allowed Knowshon Moreno 161 yards on the ground, yet that's exactly what happened. It's a positive sign for the team moving forward, as adversity like this could come their way in the postseason.
Speaking of the playoffs, the Chiefs received a major boost Sunday when the Raiders upended the Chargers for the second time this season, giving K.C. a two-game lead over the field in the AFC West. With a win this Sunday at San Diego, the Chiefs would all but lock up the division with winnable games against the Rams, Titans and Raiders remaining. It's a position nobody thought they'd be in entering the year, and it shows how far they have come in a very short amount of time.