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Turn it up to 11. Broncos can learn from losing skid vs. Chiefs

Winning turnover battle paramount in pulling off upset
Cowboys Chiefs Football
Posted at 2:27 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 16:40:30-05

ENGLEWOOD — On a raw Sunday night last season, the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry reached Spinal Tap levels.

The Chiefs turned it up to 11.

Kansas City boasts an 11-game winning streak against Denver, its longest since 1969. Let's be honest, most of you did not like history in school, so why start now? Time to hit the reset button, to remember the good times like when Peyton Manning refused to go gently into the deep night and Bradley Roby turned a scoop into a score in the Broncos' 31-24 victory on Sept. 17, 2015. That represented the Broncos' last win vs. Kansas City.

However, facts can be gleaned from the skid to prevent a dirty dozen from being strapped to the Broncos on Sunday night. Let's take a deep dive into the numbers:

—In nine of the 11 games, the Broncos have lost the turnover battle. NFL statistics can create skewed observations, but takeaways and giveaways remain a constant predictive tool for victory. Only once in 11 games have the Broncos won the turnover margin. They are minus-18 in the matchup. Simply put, Denver must take care of the ball — even more imperative on the road — and steal a few extra possessions with interceptions if Patrick Mahomes, as he has been wont to do this season, takes risks.

—Turn back the clock. At some point we are going to eliminate Daylight Saving Time, so why not make months suggestions. Instead of playing on Dec. 5, the Broncos should think of it as Nov. 35. The Broncos own a 3-19 record in December in Kansas City. Only three quarterbacks have won there in this month — John Elway, Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton (he's the basketball with the two footballs in the "Sesame Street" skit which one is not like the other).

I was talking with Hall of Famer Steve Atwater on Thursday about this. He stressed the importance of motion from the offense to detect the Chiefs coverage, and Teddy Bridgewater making quick, decisive decisions in the passing game.

—Whether Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur wants to acknowledge it or not, starting fast matters, and has grown in significance. The Broncos are 1-20 when trailing at halftime under Fangio and 16-4 when leading. The problem in this recent lopsided game? The Chiefs have scored first seven of the 11 contests, including three of five in Kansas City. Too often the Broncos are climbing uphill on the plains.

— The average score during the streak is 29-16, advantage Chiefs. The average score in Kansas City is 27-14. With Fangio in charge, the Broncos have been outscored by the Chiefs 118-41, an average defeat of 30-10. That's the ugly, sobering news. The good news? Denver lost 22-16 in its last matchup a year ago, and held a 16-12 lead with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.

In summary, the last six years of this rivalry have been a hot mess for Denver, from Manning's 0.0 QB rating, the Christmas embarrassment, Case Keenum's missed touchdown to Demaryius Thomas, Joe Flacco getting sacked six times and looking like he had never seen a blitz, Drew Lock's interceptions and, of course, Patrick Mahomes debuting in 2017, eclipsing Paxton Lynch, as he has reeled off seven straight straight wins against Denver to start his career.

However, these Broncos promise they are different. They are more talented than in recent seasons, have better chemistry. Now the challenge is clear: Can they repeat the Dallas performance, and pull off their biggest win since Super Bowl 50 and move into first place in the AFC West?