Klee: Injured Manning sends dangerous message to Chiefs

By: Paul Klee
November 13, 2013 Updated: November 14, 2013 at 2:01 pm
photo - Despite an ankle injury, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was still giving the "thumbs-up" after the Broncos' 28-20 win over San Diego on Nov. 10.  (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Despite an ankle injury, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was still giving the "thumbs-up" after the Broncos' 28-20 win over San Diego on Nov. 10. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) 

ENGLEWOOD - The Chiefs are living a charmed life.

How far would they go to continue their absurdly good luck? Would they test fate by testing the strength of Peyton Manning's bum ankle?

You bet your barbecue Kansas City would.

"I'm pretty sure they know where he's sore at," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris told me.

This isn't rocket science. It's football strategy.

On a basketball court, the smart move is to take away a point guard's dominant hand. Make him go left. For a pull hitter on a baseball diamond, you shift the defense.

With a quarterback playing on a bad wheel, the wise approach is to make him move.

Targeting the best quarterback to grace the AFC West since John Elway retired might seem like a low blow, indeed. But this is a business, and the Chiefs are in the business of trying to win the division and earn home field in the playoffs.

At Dove Valley on Wednesday, Manning scooted through the locker room in corduroy pants and without a limp. He didn't practice but said he would've been available to play in a game.

"They're not going to Wednesday games yet, are they?" Manning joked. "It's coming."

Know what else is coming, on Sunday night at Sports Authority Field?

The Chiefs are coming. They're coming for the ultimate quarterback. They're coming to test his injured right ankle as if there were a pot of gold attached to the tips of his toes.

"If they targeted that, it's almost illegal going that low. So you have to be careful about that," Harris said.

There's a reason Manning pleads the Fifth when he's asked about his aching body.

"I feel like the injury report is very revealing to the other opponents, as well as the folks in Vegas," Manning said.

There's a silver lining to a high-profile injury to the athlete with the highest profile in American sports. The Broncos know he's injured. The Chiefs know he's injured.

The NFL and its officiating crews know he's injured. Here's a safe guess any sort of borderline hit on Manning is met with a yellow penalty flag.

"We're going to let the people (referees) in charge of making the game what it should be. We'll let them do their jobs and we'll just do our jobs," interim coach Jack Del Rio said.

And here's a safe guess most of Colorado will hold its breath if there's any kind of hit on their quarterback.

In the NFL, any advantage is an advantage worth taking. As bad as it sounds, players are made aware of their opponent's injury issues.

If an offensive lineman is slowed with a gimpy knee, the Broncos are going to align a blitz to his side. Just last Sunday, the Broncos defense was aware Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal had been struggling with a toe injury.

If there's a sore spot with an opponent, "You're definitely going to pick at it and see how it is," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson told me. "But at the same time, this is a league of men. These men have a lot of pride in their craft."

Players usually don't search out this injury information. But if an opponent is struggling with an outstanding injury, coaches inform their players of the ailment.

"Sometimes they'll say, 'Hey, this guy is banged up' or something," Harris said. "The only way I know is if a coach tells me."

Let's be real. The Chiefs are not on the level of the Broncos.

If Manning were healthy, I believe the Broncos, playing in Denver, should be favored by more than eight points. That's the line established by Las Vegas oddsmakers.

But that's with Manning at full health.

Manning is not at full health. That was as clear as the San Diego sky when he limped from the field after a lower-body tackle by Chargers lineman Corey Liuget.

Del Rio was asked if he is concerned the Chiefs will go low on his quarterback.

"No more concern than any other time," he said.

This isn't to suggest the Chiefs play dirty. Coach Andy Reid reminded again Wednesday he's tight with John Fox and Del Rio, and the former Eagles coach labored with injured quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick in Philadelphia.

And there's a big difference between hitting a guy where it already hurts and scheming to attack an offense or defense where it is hurt.

The Chiefs will scheme to attack Manning from all angles. It's what they do.

With an NFL-high 36 sacks, Kansas City has been merciless with opposing quarterbacks. Lucky, too.

As if Reid arrived in the heartland with a voodoo doll, starting quarterbacks drop to the turf the week before they are scheduled to play the Chiefs.

The pattern borders on bizarre. Tennessee started a backup quarterback against Kansas City. So did Houston, Cleveland and Buffalo.

When Manning was dropped to the turf one week before playing the Chiefs, Kansas City's charmed life hit new levels of good fortune.

Manning is the Broncos' lucky charm. The Chiefs' mission is to take it away.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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