KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs have a whole lot more to worry about than quarterback Peyton Manning when they face the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Denver plays defense, too.
With the Chiefs’ offensive line in shambles because of injuries to guards Jon Asamoah (broken thumb) and Ryan Lilja (knee) and left tackle Branden Albert (back), the Broncos’ ferocious pass rush could do some serious damage no matter who is playing quarterback.
The Broncos’ defense ranks sixth overall and leads the NFL with 35 sacks, the most it has recorded through 10 games since 1986. Linebacker Von Miller, who has an AFC-leading 13 sacks, and defensive end Elvis Dumervil, with eight, form the top duo in the league with 21 sacks.
The Chiefs have surrendered 22 sacks this season , which ranks in the middle of the pack in the league, but a patchwork line allowed three in last Sunday’s 28-6 loss to Cincinnati. Dumervil has 81/2 sacks in nine career games against the Chiefs, and he sacked Brady Quinn four times in a 2009 game when Quinn was with Cleveland.
“Those guys coming off the edge are really good. We’re going to have to do a really good job with our H-protection,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said of assigning an extra blocker to help out on either Miller or Dumervil. “Otherwise, we’re going to struggle more.”
Miller, who wears No. 58 in honor of former Chiefs pass rushing terror Derrick Thomas, sacked San Diego’s Philip Rivers three times and forced two fumbles in the Broncos’ 30-23 victory last Sunday that all but wrapped up the AFC West.
Dumervil, the NFL sack leader with a club-record 17 in 2009, picked up his eighth sack and forced his AFC-leading sixth fumble on Sunday. After missing all of 2010 because of a torn pectoral muscle, Dumervil had 91/2 sacks last year and became the seventh player since 2000 to make the Pro Bowl after missing the previous season because of an injury. Manning likely will join that list this year.
Dumervil was joined in the Pro Bowl last year by Miller, who also was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 when he had 11 1/2 sacks, including 1 1/2 sacks in the Broncos’ 17-10 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
In 25 career games, Miller has 24 1/2 sacks and is clearly fulfilling the potential the Broncos envisioned when they selected him from Texas A&M with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft behind quarterback Cam Newton, who was taken by Carolina.
“I’ve made steps,” Miller said. “Not too big of hurdles or jumps like that, but I think I have definitely taken steps to being a great run defender.”
Indeed, Miller has done more than just get to the quarterback. He’s stopped running backs in their tracks and his 23 tackles for losses also lead the league.
“Coming into pro football and he’s worked very hard to become a complete linebacker, not just a rush linebacker,” Denver coach John Fox said, “but you’re almost crazy to put him in coverage just because he’s so talented going the other way. He’s just a real disruptive player when he’s going forward, whether it’s in the run game for a tackle for loss or whether it’s a sack on a pass play.
”Our full body of work’s not done yet. He’s well on his way. He’s a very talented young man. Fun to coach, fun to be around. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him but he’s got a bright future ahead of him, I can say that.“
Miller’s signature moment occurred two weeks ago at Carolina against the player selected one spot ahead of him in the 2011 draft. After taking down Newton for the first of Denver’s seven sacks in the Broncos’ 36-14 win, Miller made good on a game-week wish by mimicking Newton’s ”Superman“ pose.
”I had a plan,“ Miller told reporters after the game. ”I talked about it all week (in the locker room), but if you talk about it (in public) and it doesn’t happen, it’s always worse,“ Miller said. ”It’s good to talk about it and get it done so quick in the game.
“I just want to keep going, keep doing what I’m supposed to do, keep working. I don’t want to be satisfied with this and that. I want to win. I want to be a guy everybody counts to help us win.”