KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sunday night’s showdown at the Denver Broncos offers a redemption opportunity for the Kansas City Chiefs, a chance to wash away the bitter taste left behind by the dressing down handed to them in primetime in week four at Pittsburgh and end a primetime losing streak against the Broncos.
“Pittsburgh we don’t remember,” linebacker Tamba Hali said. “It’s all about this game, it’s all about our team going in there and dominating for four quarters. That’s out mindset.”
The Chiefs own a three-game losing skid against the Broncos in primetime games. The team’s last late-night win versus Denver came at Arrowhead Stadium in week 12 of the 2006. Both teams enter the game needing a win to avoid falling further back in the AFC West race and the battle for a playoff positioning.
Add the spectacle of primetime Sunday Night Football on Thanksgiving weekend among longtime rivals, and the excitement level soars for coach Andy Reid’s team.
“It’s exciting anytime you have an opportunity to play them,” coach Andy Reid said. “They’re the World Champs. They’re there. They’ve been at the top of the AFC West here.”
Sunday’s game begins the heart of the divisional schedule for both teams. The Chiefs own wins over both Oakland and San Diego with four divisional games over the final six weeks of the season. The Broncos have the most work to do, holding a 1-2 record in the division with three games left, including two against the Chiefs.
The road back to the playoffs is proving more difficult this year for Broncos coach Gary Kubiak.
“We know there’s some really good football teams in this division,” Kubiak said. “Guys are playing up to their potential and are winning close games and now it’s time to start banging on each other. It’s the nature of the game. A lot of big games to play here in the last six weeks for all four of us.”
Broncos linebacker Von Miller said the rivalry between the two teams remains alive and well.
“It’s a divisional game and a rivalry game,” Miller said. “You never know who’s going to win. There have been teams that have come in as favorites and they’ve came in and gotten blown out.”
Miller cited his own personal rivalry with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
“Me and Travis Kelce have always had our battles during the game,” Miller said. “I think this one is going to be ‘Miller-Kelce 7’. I always enjoy going against him. He’s one of the best tight ends in the National Football League, and he’s going to talk about it as well.”
Sunday’s game takes on added significance for the Chiefs following last week’s 19-17 loss at home to Tampa Bay. The loss dropped the Chiefs out of first place in the AFC West.
“Last week we played a game we knew we should have won and didn’t win,” Hali said. “We just got to show up.”
The Chiefs also hope to end a couple of other ugly primetime losing streaks. The Chiefs own a five-game losing streak in primetime, and the team stands 2-6 in primetime games under Reid. That mark includes an 0-3 record against the Broncos, as well as the 43-14 beating at the hands of the Steelers in week four.
Hali said Sunday’s game against Denver has more meaning than the Sunday night game at Pittsburgh. The Broncos offer a familiar foe, with more consequences on the line.
“It’s a huge game for us,” Hali said. “It’s a divisional game, everybody’s going to be watching for us, we got to bounce back.”
Kansas City’s losing streak in primetime at Denver extends to Oct. 17, 1994. That Monday night quarterback Joe Montana found wide receiver Willie Davis in the corner of the end zone for a come-from-behind 31-28 victory over the Broncos and John Elway.
That’s ancient history for this Chiefs team, Halid said.
“We’re going to have to show out,” Hali said. “That was then, this is now.”
POE RETURNS TO PRACTICE
The Chiefs appear closer to returning several key defensive starters for this Sunday’s game, with defensive tackle Dontari Poe (back) returning to the practice field Thursday
Linebacker Derrick Johnson (Achilles) also returned to practice Thursday. Cornerback Marcus Peters (hip) practiced for the second-straight day after missing Sunday’s game.
Four players did not practice Thursday: linebacker Dee Ford (hamstring), cornerback Steven Nelson () and defensive lineman Jaye Howard (hip) and Kendall Reyes (knee).
Thanksgiving week presents a change in routine for many NFL teams, and the Chiefs are no exception. The team hit the practice field Monday morning, allowing players and staff a chance to spend Thanksgiving afternoon with their family.
While Reid’s bye week success has teams copying his blueprint, Thanksgiving weekend results are more spotty. Reid’s teams stand 8-9 during Thanksgiving week, and broke a five-game losing streak with a 30-22 win over the Buffalo Bills.
The Chiefs began the Reid era with two straight losses against Denver on Thanksgiving weekend.
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and the Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.