The Kansas City Chiefs are 7-4 and atop the AFC West, with a one-game lead over rival San Diego. If you look at how well the team has performed over those first 11 games, there appears to be a correlation with winning and the safety position.
Last season, the Chiefs played with veterans Jon McGraw and Mike Brown playing side by side and giving up one big play after another to opponents.
The defense was continually gashed for big runs by opposing running backs, and receivers like Jabar Gaffney and Miles Austin posted career games against the Chiefs' rickety old secondary.
This season, the Chiefs front office made the secondary, and specifically the safety position, a priority in the draft and came away with the best two safeties out of the SEC.
Eric Berry, arguably the best pure athlete in the draft, has been solid for the Chiefs, but perhaps the player who quietly makes the biggest difference when he’s in the lineup is “the other rookie” Kendrick Lewis.
Lewis only has 24 tackles and an interception on the season, but he has missed three games because of injury. Those three games against Houston, Oakland and Denver were all losses for the Chiefs. In the eight games he’s played, seven as a starter, the Chiefs are 7-1.
So heading into this important divisional matchup against the Broncos on Sunday, the Chiefs coaching staff will be happy to have Lewis back in the lineup.
The Broncos have the league’s fourth-best passing offense, led by quarterback Kyle Orton who threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the last meeting between these two teams in Denver three weeks ago.
Not only will Lewis help in defending the Orton-led passing attack, but he should play a big role in stopping a Broncos rushing attack that has floundered in every game except their last meeting against the Chiefs.
In that game, Knowshon Moreno ran for a season-high 106 yards.
Lewis and the Chiefs defense won’t let that happen again on Sunday at Arrowhead.
Chiefs - 38
Broncos - 17