ENGLEWOOD -- After five years of getting their ears boxed, the Broncos now have a tremendous opportunity to restore the rivalry against the Kansas City Chiefs. Will Denver seize the moment or wilt again in the spotlight?
The Broncos' forecast is Snowy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The matchup remains lopsided. The Broncos have lost nine straight to Kansas City by an average of 12-plus points per game. Nobody knows it better than Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. He grew up in Lee's Summit, Mo., as a huge Chiefs fans. That all changed when he joined the Broncos two years ago, leaving him embracing his role as the villain.
"It is cool to be able to put the Darth Vader mask on and steer away from Jedi and come to the dark side over here in Denver. I kind of like playing that guy," Lock said. "Hopefully I can be that guy and get a win this Sunday."
Lock has faced the Chiefs once, last December in Kansas City. He didn't fare well, but he should benefit from the experience for two reasons: he learned he can still throw in the snow, which Denver7's Mike Nelson is projecting for Sunday, and the pterodactyls in his stomach will be tamed.
"That will help getting that first one out of the way," Lock said.
Lock has played nine quarters this season, completing 33 of 62 yards for 425 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He must play better and should with more reps in Pat Shurmur's offense and fewer drops from his receivers.
"We need a good stretch (of health) from him, so he can get comfortable and we can tailor stuff to him," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "But we are happy we have him."
Lock recognizes the Chiefs will likely blitz him as they did a year ago, a challenge made more difficult with the possibility that left guard Dalton Risner will miss Sunday's game due to a shoulder injury.
"As long as I know my job," said Lock, "and I know where to go with the football, I am disciplined in my footwork and know where I’m going, you can play me however you want."
The Broncos were not competitive against the Chiefs last season, outscored 53-9. The December beat down let to a raw postgame interview with Von Miller that reflected frustration, if not resignation.
"We’ve tried everything, on and off the football field,” Miller said. “We’ve tried all different coaches, all different players. I really don’t know what’s going on. If I did, I would be the first to execute whatever plan it is to get everything better. I’m at a loss for words.”
Miller would say a few days later that he had not lost hope. Now, he's likely lost for the season following ankle surgery (though he was at practice Wednesday walking around with a boot on). The Broncos' belief this time comes from back-to-back road wins, and a defense that appears poised to become a Top 10 unit. The Broncos posted 8.5 sacks and three takeaways against the Jets and Patriots.
They showed aggression not previously seen from Fangio. However, blitzing is not advised against Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. That might mean dropping eight into coverage. The difference this year is that Kansas City can really run. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire leads the NFL in scrimmage yards (682) and ranks second in rushing yards (505). And Le'Veon Bells joins team this week.
"Believe it or not," Fangio said, "they are a better offense than they were last year.”
The Broncos are eager to return to relevance. But to do that, they must close the gap on the Chiefs.
"For them to win a Super Bowl, and they are in our division, we have to take that personally," said Bradley Chubb, who has 3.5 sacks in his past two games. "If we want to take that next step, this is the team you have to do it against."
The Broncos are getting healthier. Following Wednesday's practice, the likelihood of tight end Noah Fant, receiver K.J. Hamler and cornerback A.J. Bouye playing has increased. They could also be joined by defensive linemen Dre'Mont Jones and Sylvester Williams. ...
Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins, who tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday, remains in self-quarantine. The Broncos have had no more positive tests. ...
Chubb indicated that he's not longer thinking about his surgically-repaired left knee. He has regained his form, and he can't be thinking about his knee when he's focusing on "being a leader." ...
Dalton Risner and receiver Diontae Spencer, both dealing with shoulder injuries, did not practice, leaving their status in doubt for Sunday. Austin Schlottmann will start at left guard if Risner can't go, and Tyrie Cleveland is projected to replace Spencer on punt return, if needed. ...
The Chiefs ran the ball 46 times for 245 yards Monday night, both bests in coach Andy Reid's tenure in Kansas City.