Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (27) during the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Ask Broncos Country who the Denver Broncos’ biggest rival is and you won’t get a consensus.
Not anywhere close.
Most would say the Oakland Raiders. I’m one of those. I was born a Raider Hater and will forever be one.
Some would say the San Diego Chargers. I’m not one of them.
The last decade, one could make an argument for the New England Patriots. And they would be right.
But the most overlooked rivalry is the one with the Kansas City Chiefs, and I’ve never understood why.
There’s nowhere near the hate and vitriol for Kansas City as there is for Oakland. Yet when you think about it, the better rivalry the last 20-25 years has been the Chiefs.
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One of the greatest moments in Broncos history happened against Kansas City in the divisional round of the playoffs in 1997. On the road and clinching a 14-10 lead in frigid Arrowhead Stadium where the Broncos never fare well in cold weather, the Chiefs had a chance to win the game.
As the Broncos recount on their website, Kansas City drove to the Broncos’ 20-yard line. As time ticked off at a snail’s pace and the heartbeat of Broncos Country raced, on fourth-and-2, Denver cornerback Darrien Gordon broke up his second Elvis Grbac pass in the end zone. The clutch play by Gordon sent the Broncos to the AFC Championship game the next week in Pittsburgh, and we know how the story finishes. “This one’s for John.”
But without that game against the Chiefs and the incredible play by Gordon, none of it happens. That game is just as significant as the games in the 1970s against the Raiders. Since that win against Kansas City was a step to the team’s first Super Bowl win, it’s probably more so. But we’ll stick with “as” for now.
Dec 1, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) and cornerback Marcus Cooper (31) during the second half of the game at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the 31-28 outcome, the Oct. 17, 1994 game at old Mile High is one of the greatest games in NFL history. Prior to that typically chilly Denver night, Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer was 0-7 in Denver as coach in Kansas City and Cleveland. Kansas City hadn’t beaten the Broncos on the road since 1982. And Joe Montana was 0-3 at Mile High. That’s high-end drama.
It’s still painful to recount, but that 81 seconds is pure magic that ended one of the best quarterback duels in NFL history. Montana used that time to go 7 for 8 on a 75-yard drive that culminated with the game-winning touchdown to Willie Davis in the north end zone with 8 seconds left. Montana finished 34-of-54 passing for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Broncos quarterback John Elway was 18 for 29 for 263 yards.
Prior to that drive by Montana, Elway scored on a 4-yard run to make it 28-24 with 1:29 to play. The drive was made possible after a Marcus Allen fumble that was recovered by Karl Mecklenburg.
The Broncos and Chiefs have always been rivals. But given what happened in the 1980s between the Browns and Broncos, when Schottenheimer moved to Kansas City from Cleveland, it added gasoline to the fire.
Allen came over from the Raiders.
Then Joe Cool.
At that point, the Chiefs already had Neil Smith and Derrick Thomas. Those two made Elway’s life miserable for so long. They were one of the best pass rushing duos the NFL has seen. When Smith signed with Denver in 1997, it stoked the fire once again.
Over the last decade, the passionate hate has disappeared.
It seems Broncos Country has brushed aside the Chiefs.
Broncos fans recount the history with Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland every chance they get. What about Kansas City?
Why not do the same with the Chiefs? Especially since the better rivalry the last quarter century has been Kansas City. I get that the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game in over 20 years (someone should tell their fans) but this is one of the rivalries where, here it comes, “you throw out the records.”
For the 108th time, these two teams knock helmets on Sunday. The Chiefs lead the all-time series 56-51.
Regardless of what happens, it’s time for Broncos Country to bring the passion back to this rivalry that it deserves.
Nov 17, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) dives for a sack of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17.Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports