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Here we go again: Broncos face Chiefs in benchmark game

Broncos were not ready for primetime last year against the Chiefs, who have won 9 in a row against Denver.
Credit: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) makes a call against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Denver.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Here the Broncos are again, showing a glimmer of hope as they approach an organizational crossroads and a home game against the sublime and incomparable Kansas City Chiefs.

Are the Broncos ready for their big test this year?

They failed miserably last year.

The Broncos had started 0-4 last year under new head coach Vic Fangio, but they then won back-to-back games against the Chargers and Titans heading into their week 7 home matchup against the Chiefs, who were coming off back-to-back losses after a 4-0 start.

That should sound eerily familiar. The Broncos began this year 0-3, but they have won back-to-game games heading into their week 7 home game this Sunday against the Chiefs, who after a 4-0 start lost last week against the Raiders and are playing Monday night at 4-1 Buffalo.

It was a Thursday Night game last year and as it turned out the Broncos were nowhere near ready for primetime. Even though the Chiefs lost superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes II to a dislocated kneecap early in the second quarter, backup Matt Moore was plenty good enough to dispose of the outclassed Broncos, 30-6.

Credit: AP Photo/Ed Zurga
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor (97) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019.

Are this year’s Broncos ready to at least give the Chiefs a better game?

"We’ll find out, we certainly hope so," Fangio said Monday in his day-after-game Zoom media conference. "Lot of different players here from that game last year. We’ll see where we’re at. It’s going to be a great, great challenge. They’re the defending champs. … We know who they are, they’re a great, great team. They score a lot of points. They’re defense has gotten a lot better from early on last season. It’ll be a major, major challenge."

After getting embarrassed in week 7 last year, Broncos brass came away believing first-year offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello did not yet have the feel to call plays in the NFL, at least not nearly at the level of the Chiefs’ Reid. Scangarello was let go after last season – the Broncos lost their rematch, 23-3 in the snow at Arrowhead Stadium later in the year, leaving a combined score of 53-9 Chiefs – and replaced by veteran offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

So far, Shurmur hasn’t been Andy Reid, but at least he learned him from 1999-2008 when both were with the Philadelphia Eagles. It would help if Shurmur had No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton for the game Sunday, which he won’t, or speed receiver KJ Hamler and tight end Noah Fant, which he might.

Broncos general manager John Elway and Fangio spent their offseason rebuilding their roster around promising young quarterback Drew Lock so that they could start keeping up with the Chiefs on the scoreboard. The Broncos have a ways to go, ranking near the bottom of the league again in scoring at 20.0 points per game. The Chiefs averaged 39 points a game in the 2019 postseason and are cruising at 29.2 points this year.  

"He’s got such a Star Wars offense over there, lot of weapons," Fangio said of Reid. "Lot of speed. And a great, great quarterback who is operating this offense at a very, very high level. He’s very hard to sack, he doesn’t throw interceptions, or very rarely does. The guy’s at the top of his game."

The Chiefs have won the last four consecutive AFC West Division titles thanks in part to their 9-game winning streak against the Broncos.

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