The Bowlen Family Trust does not own the Broncos. The Chiefs do.
If the Broncos want to be something rather than nothing, they must end The Curse of the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night. There is a conduit.
The Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium is the Broncos’ Error-Headed Stadium.
Not only have the Chiefs won 11 consecutive games in this intense divisional rivalry, but the Broncos have suffered through a horrific all-time 3-18 regular-season record in December in K.C.
Sunday’s game will be the first for first place in the AFC West in the last month of the year since Dec. 1, 2013, when both the Broncos and the Chiefs had 9-2 records.
Based on a 108-yard kickoff return and two touchdown passes by Alex Smith, the Chiefs led the Broncos 21-7 in the second quarter. But Peyton Manning connected with Eric Decker for four scores as the Broncos ultimately won 35-28.
That was the Broncos’ last December victory over the Chiefs.
When the Dallas AFL franchise moved to Kansas City in ’63, the Broncos played Dec. 8 at Municipal Stadium vs. the Chiefs and lost 52-21. Kansas City hasn’t been truly kind to the Broncos in December since. The Broncos did win in Arrowhead Jan. 4, 1998, in the playoffs and went on to win their first Super Bowl.
The December woes in Kaycee have reached 10, 5, and now 2 with losses in 2019 and last season. The first year Vic Fangio coached the Broncos they weren’t prepared for the trip to Arrowhead. In a December snowstorm that took the officiating crew (and a sports columnist) 2½ hours to reach the stadium from an airport hotel, the Chiefs slid to an easy victory as Patrick Mahomes threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Lock was 18 of 40 for 208 yards and an interception. The Broncos didn’t score a touchdown. They fell again in December of 2020 22-16.
Decades ago the Broncos should have petitioned the NFL demanding that they never play another December game in Kansas City, where the temperatures always seem to be in the 20s-30s, with freezing rain or snow, and the Broncos melted except in 1994 (with a triumph in overtime after John Elway was forced to leave with a knee injury), 2009 and 2013.
The weather will be unseasonably tolerant Sunday evening with a temperature in the 50s at kickoff and no chance of showers.
The Broncos have to level the playing field against the Chiefs, who were unexceptional early in the season, losing three of their first five and four of six. However, they’ve won their past four, including the last three against the Packers, the Raiders and the Cowboys. And they are coming off a bye.
How in the wide world of sports do the Broncos prevail?
Fangio has to be his most inventive with the defense while copying the Buccaneers’ strategies from the Super Bowl; offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur suddenly must be more resourceful, and Tom McMahon and his special teams must avoid the twice-a-game stupid blunders. Is that too much to request? Not if they want to have a chance in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos must play Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson deep on every play and not get beat over the top ever. One assists the cornerback on Tyreek Hill continuously and compels Mahomes to throw short. Patrick Surtain has to focus fully on tight end Travis Kelce with help from linebacker Baron Browning. The Broncos should not blitz, but plan for insider back Kenny Young to hold his ground and spy on Mahomes. The Broncos have to depend on the three defensive linemen and two outside linebackers for the rush and the runs.
Offensively, the Broncos ought to call on Javonte Williams at least 25 times as a runner and a receiver. Shurmur should utilize three and even four tight ends and alternate them with three and four wide receivers. Teddy Bridgewater must arc to Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on 20-30-yard routes, while emphasizing Tim Patrick for 10-12 mid-range plays against weak replacement cornerback Charvarius Ward.
This is the Broncos’ most critical game since Super Bowl 50. Can they can Kansas City in the December to Remember and take back their ownership and X the hex?