The last time the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs was on September 17, 2015. Since that fateful game, the Chiefs have established a 13-game reign of dominance over the Broncos— while also owning the AFC West for a record-setting six consecutive seasons.
The last 13 meetings of the Chiefs and Broncos have given us some of the most unforgettable moments in the recent history of the rivalry, from the left-handed pass from Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill on a 2nd-and-30 to pick up the first down, to the Cairo Santos field goal that gave the Chiefs a 30-27 victory over the Broncos in OT on Sunday Night Football in 2016. (On a personal note, my daughter was born just a few hours later).
For some Chiefs fans, a victory over Denver has become a foregone conclusion. Could this be the season those expectations are shattered?
After losing 13 straight games to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos have gone all-in for the 2022 season in hopes of reversing their fortunes.
Since their Super Bowl victory in 2015 over the Carolina Panthers, the Broncos organization has featured a miserable parade of quarterbacks, with a handful of head coaches thrown in for good measure. In that span, the Broncos have trotted out the likes of “Turnover” Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch battling to be the heir apparent to the great Peyton Manning after his retirement following the 2015 season. Let’s not forget Brock Osweiler in 2017, the drafting of Drew Lock in 2019, or the signing of Joe Flacco that same season. Despite all the changes over the last six years, the Donkeys have wallowed in mediocrity.
Fortunately for Broncos fans, the carousel came to a screeching halt this offseason when the team traded the farm to the Seattle Seahawks for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback and Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson. Just like that, the Broncos went from AFC West cellar dwellers to likely AFC West contenders. Not only is Wilson one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but he also holds the distinction of being one of the few quarterbacks currently in the NFL that Patrick Mahomes has not bested yet.
It should be said that Mahomes has only faced Wilson once, on December 23, 2018, in a game where the Chiefs lost 38-31. During that game, the two QBs had nearly identical stat lines, (Wilson’s completion percentage being slightly higher than Mahomes) with Mahomes completing 23 of 40 passes for 273 yards, 3 TD, and Wilson going 18-for-29 passing for 271 yards and 3 passing scores.
While their one meeting is too small a sample size to predict with any degree of accuracy how the two quarterbacks will match up, the hearts of Chiefs fans with trepidation at the thought of rather than facing one of the best QBs in the league once every few years, the Chiefs will now be facing him twice a season.
Just in case the addition of Wilson was not enough to make Chiefs fans squirm, they have also hired a new head coach in Nathaniel Hackett. On January 9th, only 1 day after the Broncos 2021 season finale, head coach Vic Fangio met the fate of many Broncos quarterbacks before him, and was sacked, and a couple weeks later, on January 27 they hired Hackett. While this will be Hackett’s first head coaching gig, he has been an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and most recently, the Green Bay Packers.
The offensive minded Hackett is sure to build a prolific offense around his new star quarterback—of that there is no doubt—but another factor that needs to be taken into account is the re-signing of running back Melvin Gordon. It is no secret that in past seasons the Chiefs defense has struggled mightily against the run, and Gordon has proved to be a thorn in the side of the Chiefs’ defense. Over the last two years, Gordon has averaged a very efficient 86.3 rushing yards on less than 15 carries per game—including two straight 100-yard performances.
With the signing of Wilson, the re-signing of Gordon and an offense reconstructed by Hackett, the Chiefs defense will face more of a test when going up against the Broncos then they have in recent years. However, it is important to also examine what the Chiefs have lost when they traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins earlier this spring.
While it is true that Hill never had any what you might call career games against the Broncos, he was certainly a factor in several of the Chiefs 13 consecutive victories over the Broncos, and the lack of his presence as a deep threat will not go unnoticed by the Chiefs—or I suspect, by the Broncos either. During his time with the Chiefs, Hill had at least 8 games where he put up 50 yards or more against Denver, including the key plays mentioned above. Between the offensive brilliance of Andy Reid and the talent of Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs will get along just fine without Hill, but let’s not pretend his absence isn’t a factor, especially during those heated divisional rivalry games.
Finally, while the Chiefs have reigned supreme over the Broncos these past 13 games, let’s not look at those victories through red-and-gold colored glasses, for it must be taken into account just how narrow the margin of victory was in a lot of those games and how some of them were even come-from-behind victories for K.C. During the course of the Chiefs 13 game winning streak, 6 of those 13 games were decided by a single touchdown or less, and that was almost always against a much inferior Broncos team with inferior quarterbacks. It is a fact that when hated divisional foes like the Chiefs and Broncos face each other, you can throw stats and standings right out the window, cause those two teams are out for blood. That is evident in those six victories where the Chiefs have been lucky to escape, keeping their win streak intact.
It is entirely possible the Chiefs dominance continues through the 2022 season and this entire piece proves to be a moot point, but it would be a grave mistake to assume that just because the streak has gone this far, means it will continue, for a forgone conclusion, that is not.