ENGLEWOOD -- When the Broncos walk into Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night, history, and perhaps a bone-chilling wind, will punch them in the face.
They stink against the Chiefs over the past five years, and they smell just as rotten in Kansas City in December. The Broncos own a 10-game losing streak against the Chiefs, one shy of their longest skid ever against Kansas City posted from 1964-1969.
Face masks and Facebook posts behind him, quarterback Drew Lock aims to revive his season and become only the fourth Broncos' quarterback to win in this calendar month in Kansas City.
The Broncos are 3-18 in December in K.C. Is it too early to ask for a Christmas present? A win would be nice; staying competitive might secretly be welcomed by Broncos' fans who have watched the Chiefs outscore Denver 96-25 in the rivalry's past three games.
For the Broncos to have any chance, they must protect the ball. In the loss earlier this season, they finished minus-3 in the turnover battle.
"We just turned the ball over. That was it, plain and simple. I threw the pick six. We turned the ball over earlier in that game too. If we just keep the ball in our hands and take what they give us, I think we can have a better outing this time to make the difference in the scoreboard," Lock said. "Our biggest focus is taking care of the ball this week and like I said, doing our job one play at a time."
It was this time a year ago that Lock took over as the Broncos' starter and caffeinated the offense. He went 4-1 with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. That seems like a long time ago, before his strained right rotator cuff, before he dissolved against the Chiefs and Raiders, before the NFL benched him over breaching COVID-19 protocol last week.
He's gone from Buzz Lightyear to Buzz Kill. Can he rebound? His status hangs in the balance over the final five games.
--Prove he's still the man, spawning the brass to commit to him entering the offseason?
--Show inconsistency, prompting the Broncos to bring in somebody to compete for the job through free agency, draft or trade?
--Fall off the rails, leaving the team searching for a proven veteran starter like Detroit's Matthew Stafford?
A victory in primetime Sunday would go a long way in changing the arc of his season. He has seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A 2-to-1 ratio is considered baseline for an NFL starter, and Lock is currently underwater. For the former Missouri star, playing well would resonate on multiple levels. He desperately needs to improve, and doing so in front of some family and friends in his home state could provide a boost for the final stretch.
The only Broncos quarterbacks to win in December are Peyton Manning (2013), John Elway (1994) and Kyle Orton (2009). Lock played his worst game of 2019 at Kansas City in the snow. He's winless against his favorite team growing up, completing 42 of 80 passes for 462 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns.
Nobody is giving the Broncos a chance. But it could be worse. They could be playing the Chiefs with a practice squad receiver under center.
So this is cool. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has reached out to Broncos about getting some items from last Sunday’s game. Nothing official yet, but could include Kendall Hinton’s wristband with the plays on it. Obviously, the game was not memorable. However, Hinton, a practice squad receiver, stepping into to play QB after a few hours of preparation certainly was. ...
Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell made an appearance at Friday's practice. He's been sidelined for five weeks by COVID-19. There is a possibility he might travel to the Kansas City for the game. ...
Phillip Lindsay (knee), Jerry Jeudy (ankle) and Malik Reed (shin) are all expected to play. ...
Brandon McManus returned after missing Thursday's practice for a non-injury related issue.