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Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2004

Chiefs, Broncos to test defenses

September 12, 2004

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— The Denver Broncos retooled their roster to put an emphasis on defense after losing to Indianapolis in the playoffs. The Kansas City Chiefs brought in a new defensive coordinator after -- you guessed it -- a playoff loss to the Colts.

It won't take the rivals long to find out if the changes did any good. Opening the season tonight against each other, the Broncos and Chiefs will be tested right away in a series known more for big plays than defensive stands.

"I definitely think it'll be good for us," Broncos cornerback Lenny Walls said. "We're going to have to play them twice in the season anyway, so we might as well do it in the first game and see where we stand."

Denver's changes were prompted by an embarrassing 41-10 loss to the Colts in the first round of the playoffs. After allowing Peyton Manning to throw for 377 yards and five touchdowns, the Broncos spent the offseason changing philosophy and personnel.

Always known as one of the game's best innovators on offense, coach Mike Shanahan shifted his focus to making Denver better on defense. The Broncos made the secondary, once a weak point, a strength by adding cornerback Champ Bailey and safety John Lynch.

Denver also used its first-round draft pick on speedy Miami linebacker D.J. Williams and added veterans Luther Elliss, Marco Coleman and Raylee Johnson to help up front.

The new-look Broncos should get an idea of where they stand right out of the gate, facing a Chiefs team that led the league in scoring the past two years and features Pro Bowlers Trent Green, Priest Holmes, Tony Richardson, Willie Roaf, Will Shields and Tony Gonzalez.

"The defense has definitely changed and I'd say they have changed for the best," Holmes said.

Kansas City's troubles came a week after Denver's debacle in Indy. The Colts didn't have to punt once and wracked up 434 yards in a 38-31 victory that sent them to the AFC championship game.

It wasn't much of a surprise because Kansas City finished 29th in total defense in the regular season, but it was enough for coach Dick Vermeil. He parted ways with defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and brought in former Chiefs head coach Gunther Cunningham.

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