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Archive for Sunday, December 16, 2001

Broncos have been consistent losers late in year at Arrowhead

December 16, 2001

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— Down through the years, one of the Denver Broncos' most consistent failures has been December games in Kansas City.

The Broncos have visited Kansas City 14 times in December. Thirteen times, they've lost.

A great many of those games, such as the one this Sunday, have been crucial to the Broncos' playoff hopes. Standing 7-6, including a 20-6 victory over the Chiefs in Denver on Oct. 7, they'll have to win out to preserve much hope of getting into the postseason.

"It's like this for the second year in a row," said Chiefs defensive end Duane Clemons. "I think it's great to have them have to come through us to get to the playoffs. It's going to test the limits of their abilities."

The Broncos could find an angry opponent. Even though the Chiefs (3-9) were long ago eliminated from playoff contention, they've been fuming over a frustrating 28-26 loss at Oakland last week in which they had almost twice as many total yards as the Raiders and enjoyed a 4-1 turnover ratio.

"We had a 92 percent chance of winning that game, based on statistics over the past 12 years," said Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who blamed the loss on breakdowns on special teams.

The Broncos' victory in October was their first over the Chiefs in the last five regular-season meetings. Altogether since 1990, the Chiefs are 8-3 against the Broncos at home.

"On the given day the Broncos played here against the Chiefs and had problems, I would say the Chiefs were a better football team," Vermeil said. "That's normally what determines who wins. Denver, to me right now, looks like a better football team than they were the first time we played them especially on defense."

Although they've lost three of their last four, the Chiefs have begun to improve, particularly with a running game featuring Priest Holmes, who leads the NFL in rushing (1,146 yards) and total yards from scrimmage (1,635).

Accounting for more than 38 percent of the Chiefs' total offense, Holmes is on pace to break the team rushing record.

"He has great vision," said Denver linebacker John Mobley.

"He's able to read his blocks real well. From that, he's a hell of a running back. He's able to make quick decisions, quick moves in the hole that make defenders leery of taking that one shot at him. You've got to get a lot of guys around him."

A loss would make the Broncos 0-4 on the road in the AFC West for the first time since 1992. A victory would give them back-to-back wins for the first time since the first two weeks of the season. This win-lose-win-lose pattern has stifled the Broncos all season.

"We've played better defense the second half of the season," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan.

"We've been pretty inconsistent offensively since the start of the third game of the season. We started out with a pretty good 1-2 punch. We haven't been the same offense since then. We've been moving a lot of guys in and out, just haven't had the consistency it takes to have a good record."

The Broncos will have Gus Frerotte starting at quarterback for the injured Brian Griese (concussion).

An intriguing subplot to the game is the supposed animosity many Broncos feel toward Eddie Kennison, who quit the team last month on the night before a game, citing personal reasons. Mobley reportedly said there could be "a lot of cheap shots" if Kennison gets on the field.

Mobley later said he never mentioned anything about cheap shots. But Kennison, a wide receiver who signed with the Chiefs last week, has vowed to protect himself.

Of course, Kennison probably won't appear for more than a few plays, anyway.

"This game's bigger than one guy," Clemons said. "It's not going to come down to just one person. It's going to come down to our team against their team."

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