DENVER — Courtney Brown saw the ball loose on the ground and pounced. Gerard Warren saw an offensive lineman trying to get the ball from Brown, so Warren pounced on him.
It's still early, but that sequence last week was one of several signs that Denver's decision to make the Cleveland Connection — one of the most questioned and criticized offseason maneuvers in the entire NFL — might actually be working for the Broncos.
Tonight, Warren, Brown and company get their biggest test when the Broncos (1-1) face one of the best offenses in the league, the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs (2-0).
"They just needed an upgrade," Chiefs left guard Brian Waters said. "I think they saw an opportunity to upgrade with Cleveland. Denver saw an opportunity to get some parts that were better than the parts they had."
Again, it's early, but thus far, the stats are complimentary.
The Broncos' defense, ranked fourth in the league last year but criticized because it didn't make big plays, has five takeaways through two games. Last season, the Broncos finished with 20 all season.
Last week in a 20-17 win over San Diego, the Broncos had four sacks and held the Chargers to 41 yards over the second half in what several Denver players said was the most dominating half of defense they'd ever seen.
"We've got a great defense, a great front seven," said cornerback Champ Bailey, who returned an interception for a touchdown. "There's no way we shouldn't play the way we did in the second half every week."
Individually, the decision to pick up Brown, Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban and Michael Myers, all from the Browns' defensive line, made sense. None was an overly expensive move and all four players had pedigrees that were worth looking into. Of the four, only Myers wasn't a first-round pick.
Still, the task for the Denver defense gets tougher Monday.
The Chiefs have not one, but two outstanding running backs in Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. Trent Green came into the season as the sixth-highest-rated passer in NFL history (87.9). Tony Gonzalez. Eddie Kennison. Receiver-returner Dante Hall. The list is long for what has been among the most prolific offenses in the NFL over the last several seasons.
"They've got two great running backs. They've got three great tight ends. They've got a great offensive line," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said. "Like any team, it starts right there. Then, you put the skill they've got behind that line, and it gets kind of scary."
CHIEFS (2-0) AT BRONCOS (1-1)
7 p.m., Ch. 4
This is the 14th year in a row Denver has appeared on Monday Night Football — the longest active streak in the NFL. But, if it weren't for Champ Bailey, the Broncos almost came into prime time 0-2. Bailey's interception return last week sealed a victory against San Diego, a victory that was much-needed after being humiliated a week earlier in Miami. Kansas City may not feature the most feared defense in the league — not by a long shot. But the Chiefs have put up something resembling more than just mild resistance in their first two victories. Denver has won the past three meetings at home.
Prediction: Broncos, 30-27