Secondary vs. receivers headlines heavyweight battle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The large production from the Denver Broncos’ primary receivers matches three of the four players’ respective heights.

Demaryius Thomas stands 6-3, 229 pounds; Eric Decker comes in at 6-3, 214 pounds; tight end Julius Thomas is listed at 6-5, 250 pounds; and Wes Welker comes in at 5-9, 185.

Nov 3, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (27) intercepts the ball and runs it back for a touchdown during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chiefs beat the Bills 23 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 3, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (27) intercepts the ball and runs it back for a touchdown during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chiefs beat the Bills 23 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s receivers are physically imposing, but even more so when considering the quartet has combined on 199 receptions for 2,367 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Still, Kansas City and its sixth-ranked pass defense offers something the Broncos’ receiving corps has arguably yet to face this season.

“They have some big guys there, but we have size as well,” Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper said. “We know those guys are strong and we have to match that.”

Cooper stands 6-2, 192 pounds and pairs with cornerback Sean Smith, who is listed at 6-3, 218 pounds, to match up well against Denver’s outside receivers, Thomas and Decker.

And while the Chiefs haven’t officially said who will cover Welker, it’s reasonable to expect cornerback Brandon Flowers, who starts alongside Smith, to move to the slot and draw that assignment.

Flowers, who is also 5-9, has alternated in defending outside receivers to the slot receiver in recent weeks depending on defensive package.

As to who locks up on Julius Thomas, safety Eric Berry will likely draw that assignment. Berry has excelled in covering the position through nine games, holding some of the league’s top tight ends from Jason Witten to Jordan Cameron to virtually silent games.

Nevertheless, Denver’s tight end has Berry’s respect.

“He’s a totally different player from everybody I’ve faced,” Berry said. “Everybody brings something different to the table, but with him, he’s bigger and he has good speed.”

Meanwhile, Smith said Demaryius Thomas, who ranks eighth in the league with 793 yards receiving to go with nine touchdowns, is a player the secondary must be aware of after the catch.

“We always have to be aware of that, definitely make sure you wrap up and tackle a guy like that,” Smith said. “We definitely don’t want him to get loose because he’s capable of making big plays all over the field.”

Smith went on to point out what Denver’s other wide receivers bring to the table.

With Decker, Smith complimented Decker’s ability to make difficult catches in traffic. For Welker, Smith marveled at how long the 32-year-old receiver has been getting it done, labeling the 10-year pro as “a hard matchup for anybody.”

Smith and his secondary teammates know they’ll have a busy game, but Smith said they’re up for the task.

“It’s a variety of different challenges,” Smith said of facing Denver’s receivers. “But we have a lot of faith and confidence in the world in our guys to go out there and compete.”

Berry agreed.

“At the end of the day, we just got to get out there and compete and play ball,” Berry said. “We know they’re going to hit us with some things, it’s just how we respond to that.”

Of course, it’s impossible to discuss the Denver wide receivers without mentioning the player tasked with getting them the ball.

Berry said it’s important to not get caught up in the pre-snap activity Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is famous for.

Simply put, the Chiefs secondary has to stick to their responsibilities.

“We just got to be prepared for everything; everybody has to do their job.” Berry said. “And the guy running the show, I mean, he’s seen every defense known to man, so there’s no surprises with him.

“If he’s going to check something, let him check it,” Berry continued. “Whatever happens, happens. Play the routes and play the play when it happens. Try not to get in a guessing game, a cat-and-mouse game with him. Hopefully it will come out in our favor.”

And the message of focusing on a defensive assignment and not what Manning is doing at the line of scrimmage is clear to Cooper, who faces Manning for the first time.

“I can’t focus on what everybody else is doing, what Peyton is doing,” Cooper said. “I have to look at my assignment and execute that.”

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