Bouncing back: Chiefs seek 14th straight win over Broncos
DENVER (AP) — Forget “We're on to Cincinnati.”
The catchphrase coined eight years ago by Bill Belichick after the Patriots were blown out at Kansas City was updated this week by Chiefs coach Andy Reid following his team's latest loss to the Bengals.
Now, it's “We're over Cincinnati.”
Reid was peppered with questions this week about the Chiefs (9-3) bouncing back after squandering a chance to maintain control of the AFC playoff race when they blew another late lead in a 27-24 loss to Cincinnati last weekend.
That marked the third time this calendar year Joe Burrow got the best of Patrick Mahomes, including last year's conference championship at Arrowhead Stadium.
After about the fourth question, Reid made it clear his focus was on the Broncos, not the Bengals.
Same with Mahomes, who is 41-9 in games after Halloween over his career and has never lost to the Broncos (3-9) in nine tries.
“In this league,” Mahomes said, “you have to move on or you’ll make one loss turn into two.”
The Chiefs have been adept at sequestering their losses under Mahomes, who has only lost back-to-back three times in his career, including just once in Kansas City's last 64 games.
When the Broncos, who have lost 13 consecutive times to the Chiefs, traded for Russell Wilson in the offseason, this game looked like a marquee matchup and certainly must-see TV.
While Mahomes is having another MVP season, though, Wilson has struggled mightily since coming to Denver, throwing just eight touchdown passes for a team that's not even averaging 14 points a game.
The Broncos have already assured themselves of a sixth straight losing season and will sit out the playoffs for a seventh consecutive time, raising the possibility of yet another offseason shakeup.
The Broncos haven't won on American soil since Sept. 25. Their 13.8-point scoring average is the worst in franchise history and the league's lowest in more than two decades.
It's all a massive letdown after an offseason of change — new owners, new coach, new quarterback — set the city abuzz with expectations of the Broncos finally beating Mahomes and ending the Chiefs' divisional dominance.
Wilson has looked nothing like the nine-time Pro Bowler he was in Seattle, rookie coach Nathanial Hackett has surrendered both operational decision-making and play-calling duties during games and an injury epidemic has swept aside the likes of Javonte Williams, Tim Patrick and Garett Bolles, making a recovery even harder.
The Broncos' latest embarrassment was getting Mahomes, the MVP favorite, flexed out of the Sunday night slot and into the afternoon after they struggled through four games under the lights, scoring 16, 11, nine and 16 points.
“When you don’t win, things like that are going to happen,” Hackett said.
Kansas City can clinch its seventh straight AFC West crown with a win Sunday coupled with a loss by the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chiefs' winning streak over the Broncos is the league's second-longest by one team over another, behind only the Patriots' 14 consecutive wins over the Jets.
Six of the Broncos-Chiefs games have been decided by one score, including Mahomes' NFL debut in the 2017 regular-season finale when he led Kansas City to a 30-27 overtime win at Denver. Since then, he leads the NFL with 22,799 passing yards and 181 touchdown passes.
With a win Sunday, Reid will become the third coach in NFL history with double-digit wins in eight consecutive seasons, joining Belichick (2003-19) and George Seifert (1989-96). Among Reid's biggest admirers is Hackett, who strives to emulate his creative play design.
“He's one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game. I always judge it with coaches being with different quarterbacks, different teams and showing success at all those different places with different people,” Hackett said. “I definitely strive to be anything I can like Coach Reid.”
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The Chiefs signed Melvin Gordon to their practice squad a couple of weeks ago after Denver released the two-time Pro Bowl running back because of his fumbling issues, especially near the goal line. The Chiefs were short on depth with Clyde Edwards-Helaire on IR with a high ankle sprain.
While Gordon will no doubt be itching to play against his former team, the Chiefs are healthy with Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon atop the depth chart.
The Chiefs have turned the ball over at least once in seven consecutive games, a first under Reid, and they have a minus-4 turnover differential that is better than just five other teams. Yet the Chiefs still lead the league in scoring, and that raises the question: Just how good could Kansas City be if it held onto the ball better?