KANSAS CITY, Mo. | Patrick Mahomes finally gets to face a team in an environment that’s familiar to him.
The Chiefs’ hotshot quarterback takes his record-setting show to Denver on Monday night to face the Broncos, the team he made his debut against in Week 17 last season. But whereas that game was mostly meaningless, with Kansas City assured of its playoff positioning and the Broncos’ season over, the trip back holds plenty of significance for both clubs.
The Chiefs are 3-0 with two of those victories coming on the road, where their second-year star has been downright dynamite. The Broncos (2-1) are just a game back in the AFC West.
“I mean, every game I go in I know that the defense is going to have some surprise they’re going to try to throw at us,” Mahomes said. “I know that defenses in this league are good and that defensive coordinators are going try to find ways to distract us and keep us from doing what we do.
“But I know that if we run the game plan the right way and I get the ball out of my hands and to those guys,” he said, “there is a chance for success.”
Especially if there’s a team he’s seen before.
Then again, maybe it’s not such an advantage for Mahomes that he’s seen Denver already.
The Chargers, Steelers and 49ers went into their games against Kansas City largely blind, unsure of what the strong-armed passer could do. The Broncos saw it firsthand last year, when the Chiefs rested their starters in their regular-season finale and Mahomes led a come-from-behind win.
“He’s playing well. He’s got a bunch of weapons, and again, they have a good scheme also,” Denver coach Vance Joseph said.
“You combine a quarterback’s arm talent with the skilled players he’s throwing to and with Andy Reid’s system, it makes it a tough out.”
More broadly, the Chiefs have been an impossible out for the Broncos lately. They have won five straight in the series, including two in Denver and a Christmas Day rout in Kansas City.
“They’ve got an explosive offense right now and their defense is making plays, too. For us, we’ve just got to go out there and play our game,” Broncos defensive tackle Shelby Harris said.
“Last week is last week, I’m not really worried about that anymore,” he added. “Go out there and just focus on just doing what we have to do: sticking to our keys and making plays.”
Indeed, the Broncos are coming off a road flop in Baltimore in which they blew a 14-10 halftime lead. And now the task is a Chiefs team that has scored at least 38 points in each of its games, with a quarterback in Mahomes who has an NFL-record 13 touchdown passes in the first three weeks.
“They’re averaging almost 400 yards a game and almost 40 points,” Joseph said. “The quarterback is playing at a high level. He’s got multiple weapons. Along with Reid’s system, it’s going to be difficult for us to get them stopped.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge, but being a six-point underdog, I’m not surprised. They’ve won the last three times in Denver. They’ve beaten the Broncos five straight times. I’m not surprised they’re favored. That means nothing.”
As the Broncos try to end their streak of futility, here are some things to know:
The Chiefs have scored on their first possession in every game this season, and they led San Francisco 35-7 late in the first half a week ago. Those quick starts stand in contrast to the Broncos, who have trailed entering the fourth quarter in each of their games.
THE CASE FOR CASE
The Broncos gave Case Keenum a two-year, $36 million contract to play at the same level as he did last year in Minnesota. But so far Keenum is faring no better than Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch. He’s completing just 61 percent of his passes with three TDs and five interceptions, including three in a Week 1 win over Seattle.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, and he’s been good against Denver in the past. Two of his three career games with 130 yards or more have come against the Broncos.
Broncos cornerback Tramaine Brock should be available after leaving last week’s game against Baltimore with a groin injury. His running mate, Adam Jones, was also expected to practice this week after being inactive for the Ravens with a thigh injury. Both would come in handy against Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and the rest of the Chiefs’ receiving group.
WHAT A RUSH
The Chiefs had four sacks last week against San Francisco, more than double their total the first two weeks combined. But there’s a good chance they’ll be without pass rusher Dee Ford, who left last week with a groin injury, leaving it to Justin Houston to pick up the slack.