The Kansas City Chiefs hope their latest defeat is not the start of a descent from division contention.
While the Broncos look to build on their latest victory, the Chiefs hope to rebound from an embarrassing loss when the division rivals meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Denver (3-5) had lost four of five when coach John Fox replaced Kyle Orton(notes) with Tebow for the Broncos’ Oct. 23 game at Miami. With Tebow’s unconventional style of quarterback play seemingly better suited for the college game, Fox’s move drew jeers from some fans, media and even players throughout the NFL.
What nobody can argue with, however, is that the Broncos have won two of three with Tebow as the starter and remain very much in contention in the league’s only division in which no team entered Week 10 with a winning record.
“It’s crazy because if we were in the AFC North, none of this would be going on and we wouldn’t be having a discussion about being one game out,” running back Willis McGahee(notes) said. “The thing about it is, we’re in the AFC West, and the tables can turn either way.”
Now one game behind Kansas City (4-4) as well as San Diego and Oakland for the division lead, Denver tightened the race last Sunday by scoring the final 24 points in a 38-24 win at the Raiders.
Running a similar read-option offense to what he thrived in at the University of Florida, Tebow passed for 124 yards and ran for 118 to became the first AFC quarterback to record at least 100 passing and rushing yards in a game since Pittsburgh’s Kordell Stewart in 1998. He also was sacked only twice after going down 13 times in his first two starts - an 18-15 comeback win over the Dolphins and a 45-10 mauling by Detroit.
“He’s very competitive by nature,” Fox said. “You see evidence of that. Now it’s just learning how to be an NFL quarterback. In my opinion he’s gotten better each time out.”
McGahee also continues to play well after accounting for 163 of Denver’s 299 rushing yards last week - its most since gaining 301 against Seattle on Nov. 26, 2000.
After watching his workload diminish the last three seasons as Ray Rice’s(notes) backup in Baltimore, McGahee - despite recently undergoing surgery on a broken hand - is on pace to gain 1,246 yards, which would be one yard shy of his career high set in 2005.
“He’s someone that comes in every day and works extremely hard. He’s such a competitor in the games, and it’s huge having him on our team,” Tebow said.
The Broncos likely will need strong production from both Tebow and McGahee this Sunday. The Chiefs have been victorious in 12 of the last 16 matchups with Denver at Arrowhead, including a 10-6 win last year.
“We just need to keep it going, stay focused and come out and get a win against Kansas City,” said Broncos receiver Eddie Royal(notes), who caught a TD pass and returned a punt for a score last week. “We’ll see where we’re at after that.”
The Chiefs had their four-game winning streak snapped last Sunday with a humbling 31-3 loss at home to previously winless Miami.
Kansas City had averaged 25.3 points during its winning streak and gained a respectable 341 total yards against the Dolphins, but committed eight penalties, went 0 for 2 in the red zone and could not prevent Cassel from getting sacked five times.
“We’ve been through this type of loss before. We’ll bounce back,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “You’ve got to have a short-term memory in this game. But things like this - gosh - you have to somehow forget it.”
Cassel has thrown for 1,141 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions while going 3-2 against the Broncos. He was 33 of 53 with four TDs in Kansas City’s 49-29 loss at Denver on Nov. 14. Dwayne Bowe(notes) caught 13 of those passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in that contest, but was held without a reception in the Chiefs’ home win over the Broncos last Dec. 5.
Tebow threw a TD and ran for a score during limited action in Denver’s 2010 home victory over Kansas City.