How to crash the A-gap

What's more, by compacting the space in front of the QB, Poe alters the geometry of the pocket by tightening the corners and preventing most human passers (read: not Peyton Manning) from sliding forward to escape speed rushers on the edge. As a result, the Chiefs' dormant edge rush is back in play. Coming into the Denver game, KC led the NFL with 36 sacks and was first in points allowed at 12.3. "It all comes down to the battle over that one click," says Sutton. "Forcing the quarterback to hold the ball one click longer or forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball one click sooner. These guys are fighting all game to see who is gonna win the battle over that one click."

IN THE AFTERMATH of the Broncos game, Poe is philosophical. In the battle over that one click, Mile High had become his Waterloo. Manning, using his league-leading flashbulb release of 2.33 seconds, had both frustrated Poe and wrecked the Chiefs' perfect season. "Peyton Manning is the benchmark for people who do what we do -- if you can get to Manning, you know you're doing something good," says Poe. "So we're gonna watch the film, learn from our mistakes and come back stronger."

On that tape, Poe will see many things. He will see how Denver neutralized the Chiefs with a zone run game meant to keep them out of third and long, a classic pass-rush down. He'll see how the Broncos ran to the left almost exclusively, allowing them to block Poe with center Manny Ramirez and frequent backside help from 6'5", 335-pound right guard Louis Vasquez, who has the strongest hands in the game and is one of the few blockers powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with Poe. He'll see that when it came time to pass, the Broncos used play-action and misdirection to slow Poe. And he'll see that when he did manage to knock Ramirez off his spot, Manning either slid to avoid pressure or the ball was already gone.

As a result, Poe finished the game without a single QB pressure, and the Chiefs, who once seemed poised to make a run at the 1984 Bears' record of 72 sacks in a season, went a second game in a row without a sack. "Poe could be the next Vince Wilfork because of all he presents," an exhausted Ramirez says postgame while packing extra recovery drinks into his leather bag. "I have a lot of respect for that man. He puts in a lot of hard work and is a powerful, quick, amazing talent. We contained him, but we did it as a unit."

None of which offers a shred of comfort to Poe. After the game, angry but resolute, he insists that when they get Manning in Arrowhead in Week 13, things will be different. "He can't avoid us forever," Poe says. "Sooner or later, we'll get there."

As he exits the Chiefs' locker room, Poe places his red Beats over his ears, as if to drown out the naysayers. To his left is a postgame meal.

To his right are teammates mingling with friends and family outside the team buses. Ignoring both distractions, Poe puts his head down and walks straight up the middle of the stadium exit ramp, taking the shortest distance possible out of Denver.

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