DENVER — In Kansas City, an opportunity awaits the Broncos.
Sure, this exact opportunity presents itself twice every year, but this year, it feels different. On Sunday night, in front of a national audience and for first place in the AFC West, the Broncos have a chance to do something that they haven't done in 2,216 days — beat the Kansas City Chiefs and end the infamous 11-game losing streak to their divisional rivals.
"There's no shying away from that," Broncos safety and team captain Justin Simmons said. "Everyone knows if you want to be where the Broncos are used to being, you've got to beat Kansas City, and especially at Arrowhead. So, I'm really excited for Sunday night. What an opportunity — a big win this past Sunday and a chance to have a bid for first place in our division with a win."
What an opportunity, indeed. And for the first time in a long time, the Chiefs appear to be as beatable as they've ever been, sitting at 7-4 with its high-powered offense turning the ball over 22 times this season, which is the second-most in the NFL behind only the Jets.
But the Broncos have had their chances before to end the streak the past five and a half years, coming up short each time.
Who can forget the Broncos losing on a Cairo Santos field goal that hit the left upright in overtime at Empower Field in 2016. Or in 2017 when the Broncos came back from 14 down at home to tie the game at 24, only to lose on a last-second field goal. Or just last season, in 2020, at Arrowhead when the Broncos hung with the Chiefs all game, only to lose 22-16 on a Drew Lock interception. And who can forget all the embarrassing losses, including 33-10 in 2016, 30-6 in 2019 and 43-16 in 2020.
A win on Sunday, though, could help erase some of the pain from those 11 losses.
"Some things you just don’t talk about," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. "We look for what’s ahead of us. We can’t dwell on the past. It’s another opportunity. I’m sure they’re not sitting there saying, ‘We’re 11-0 or 10-0 against Justin Simmons, or 6-0 against Bradley Chubb.’ They see it as another divisional game, and we see it the same way.”
For the Chiefs, while their fans are sure to gloat about the streak, Sunday is just another game. "The Streak" isn't something they concern themselves with.
"Yeah, somebody asked me about a streak and I'm not sure what streak we're talking about," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "We don't get into that. Every year is different in this league. We always preach that and it's true. And this is a good football team that we're playing, so if you get your focus on that and not whatever stuff we've got going here, that's the most important thing."
While the Chiefs may be vulnerable this season, they still have Reid, who is 19-3 coming off a bye week, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is the former league MVP.
And they have Arrowhead — one of the most hostile crowds in the NFL.
"I know it gets pretty loud," rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II said. "It should be a fun game, especially on Sunday Night Football, prime-time football."
The Broncos are 14-11 all-time on Sunday Night Football, most recently losing to the Chiefs in Kansas City last season.
“I think it’s good. It’s like somebody mentioned the other day, Sunday night is the game, so players get amped up for it," coach Vic Fangio said. "I don’t think we’ll have an issue being emotionally ready, besides playing the Chiefs who have been the best team in football the last three years.”
Win or lose, the Broncos will have another opportunity this season, facing the Chiefs on Jan. 9 in the final game of the season. And they'll get more in the years to come. But no doubt about it, this Sunday in Kansas City feels like the biggest game in recent history for the Broncos, who have their best shot at making the playoffs since 2015-16.
So, what are they going to do with it?
“It’s another opportunity that’s not really promised to us," Bridgewater said. "It’s an opportunity to do something great, of course. It’s another opportunity to go out there and try to help this team win.”
A look at the Broncos' losing streak vs the Chiefs
Nov. 11, 2015 at Denver: Lost, 29-13
Nov. 27, 2016 at Denver: Lost, 30-27
Dec. 25, 2016 at Kansas City: Lost, 33-10
Oct. 30, 2017 at Kansas City: Lost, 29-19
Dec. 31, 2017 at Denver: Lost, 27-24
Oct. 1, 2018 at Denver: Lost, 27-23
Oct. 28, 2018 at Kansas City: Lost, 30-23
Oct. 17, 2019 at Denver: Lost, 30-6
Dec. 15, 2019 at Kansas City: Lost, 23-3
Oct. 25, 2020 at Denver: Lost, 43-16
Dec. 6, 2020 at Kansas City: Lost, 22-16