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They wear the shame like a K.C. barbecue sauce stain on a white shirt. Try as the Broncos might to ignore it, they can’t hide the embarrassment of losing to the Chiefs 11 times in a row.
“I like to be where my feet are. So I really don’t like thinking about the past or even the future,” said safety Justin Simmons, who joined the Broncos as a third-round draft choice way back in 2016 and has yet to beat Kansas City.
The losing streak? No matter how Simmons tries to ignore it, the shame is a stain.
“I really like focusing in on the now and what’s at stake right now,” Simmons said Wednesday. “But with that being said, at some point, it does (tick) you off a little bit. I’m really looking forward to Sunday.”
For a long-suffering franchise, the upcoming trip to K.C. represents the biggest game played by the Broncos since Super Bowl 50. More than first place in the AFC West is on the line.
While Broncos Country will never stop loving its football team, it’s impossible to trust the players wearing orange and blue as anything more than heart-breakers until they find a way to beat the Chiefs.
With the country watching, Denver has been granted an opportunity to get back on the NFL map. The Broncos can win respect against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City on “Sunday Night Football,” the league showcase that was the brainchild of the late Pat Bowlen, who wouldn’t recognize the pushover his beloved team has become during the past five years.
“Sunday night is the game, so players get amped up for it,” Denver coach Vic Fangio said. “I don’t think we’ll have an issue being emotionally ready playing the Chiefs, who have been the best team in football the last three years.”
But do you trust Denver to put on a good show? Or will this be yet another painful reminder the Broncos get BBQ’d in Kansas City, where they have lost five straight times by the cumulative score of 137-69?
That’s the sort of misery that has turned the bright orange glow in Broncos Country to 50 shades of cynicism. As mistrustful fan Michael Miller told me, the only way Denver wins is if “18 of the 22 Chiefs starters, including Mahomes, plus another 12 K.C. backups, are placed in COVID protocols.”
I told Simmons of doubts harbored that these Broncos are ready for their close-up on prime-time television.
“I think that’s a fair statement for you and other people to say: ‘Hey, I don’t think you guys are worthy enough to play prime-time ball.’ That’s an opinion .. Obviously, I disagree with it,” Simmons replied. “With that being said, the best way to prove opinions wrong is to go out there and do exactly that: Prove it wrong. Sunday, we’ve got a great opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong.”
While the losing streak gets the buzz, the motivations for the Broncos to win are very personal. It’s a chance to do more than take an eraser to ugly recent memories in this series. We’re aching for a new story to tell. For a team that has lived on past laurels for too long, “it’s an opportunity to do something great,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said.
Find a way to pull off an upset in Kansas City and the Broncos will be in the driver’s seat to chase their first divisional title since 2015. Beat Mahomes on his home turf and Bridgewater creates a signature moment far more glorious than quitting on a tackle after a turnover against Philadelphia. Outwit Andy Reid on national TV and Uncle Vic has a real shot to coach the Broncos again in 2022.
Do these all sound like impossible dreams? Well, maybe.
But this wacky NFL season has been full of any-given-Sunday surprises. Here is the chance for a team yearning for respect to win back the trust of Broncos County.
“If you want to be where the Broncos used to be,” Simmons said, “you’ve got to beat Kansas City.”