Denver Bad news for the Broncos: The Kansas City Chiefs are playing defense this season, too.
The Chiefs, the team that has been a decent defense away from becoming a championship contender for the last few years, are making strides.
In two games, both victories, they have allowed only 24 points. Last week, they stopped the Raiders at the 10-yard line to preserve a 23-17 victory, a much lower-scoring affair than many people expected.
Tonight, they face the Denver Broncos (1-1), who are struggling to find the kind of consistency on offense that has defined the Mike Shanahan era.
In times past, like last year's season-opening 34-24 victory for the Broncos after a preseason in which they barely moved the ball, a meeting with the Chiefs could have been a perfect elixir.
Maybe not this year.
"They have a lot more speed at the linebacker position," Shanahan said. "They have a new corner who is a proven player in Sammy Knight. They have a very good rush defense, which is why they have given up only about three yards per carry, and if you can keep that up throughout the year, you can beat the best."
Knight, Patrick Surtain and linebacker Kendrell Bell were the key additions to a defense that has ranked 31st, 29th and 32nd during the last three seasons. The offense was in the top five all three of those years, but the Chiefs have only one playoff appearance and no playoff victories to show for it.
Last season, Kansas City brought in former head coach Gunther Cunningham to revamp the defense. This year, it was the new players. Finally, it looks like the changes they've made are having an impact.
"Obviously, the numbers were down last year," Surtain said. "When I got traded here, I just thought it was an opportunity to bring some leadership, to bring some playmaking ability to the defense. We're playing pretty good right now, but we have a long way to go."
As do the Broncos on offense.
In two games, Jake Plummer has led the offense to two touchdowns, both by fullback Kyle Johnson.
Denver has been inside its opponent's 20-yard line seven times and has scored touchdowns only twice. The Broncos have converted seven of 28 third-down opportunities.
"I think we've proven we can move the football, but we have to do it more consistently," Shanahan said. "We can't make mistakes the way we have been making mistakes."
Indeed, penalties and turnovers have short-circuited promising drives. The Broncos were marching for a score on the first drive of last week's 20-17 victory over the Chargers when Mike Anderson fumbled at the two-yard line.
Then, there are the more subtle problems. Denver's rushing game has struggled, gaining only 168 yards on 46 carries so far, and put Plummer in third-and-eight or longer 11 times, none of which have been converted for first downs. Three times last week, Plummer threw short completions on third-and-long and was showered by boos from the normally friendly home crowd.
"Of course. I'm the guy throwing the ball," Plummer said when asked if he figured the booing was directed toward him. "If I throw an incompletion or it's third-and-20 and I chuck it down to Rod (Smith) because there's nothing downfield, then the fans boo, not realizing they'd be booing harder if I tried to force it down there and threw an interception."