"They've owned everybody in December in Kansas City," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "I don't really think that that is just a Broncos thing. I think that's a league-wide trend."
Kansas City is 21-6 at home in December dating back to 1995. McDaniels has coached at Kansas City before, and he knows that the first challenge of playing at Arrowhead is the crowd noise.
"It's not an easy place to play," McDaniels said. "It is extremely loud, as loud of a stadium outside as I've ever been at or played at."
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan agreed, saying the in-game entertainment the Chiefs put on keeps the crowd in the game and makes life very tough on the visiting team.
"They've got them roaring and cheering and they've some four-wheeler that runs around with a crazy fool on it, and they just energize everybody," Nolan said.
The Broncos need to concentrate on eliminating penalties, which have been a problem. The team has taken some maddening false-start penalties in recent weeks, which plays right into the Chiefs' hands.
In previous years, Denver has allowed the crowd to affect it at inopportune times, and the Chiefs have pounced on the Broncos' mistakes. Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had a particularly tough time going to Arrowhead, with a 3-11 regular-season record there, and McDaniels will try to reverse that trend.
Many players are new to the Broncos this season as well, but McDaniels made sure to warn them about the historical failures at Kansas City. The Broncos can't afford to slip up, as they are a game behind the Chargers in the AFC West and among many teams in the conference fighting for a wild-card spot.
"They've had some good football teams and it's a tough place to play," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We feel like we're a good football team and if we go out and play our best football and execute and don't turn the football over, we'll have a great chance to win."
--Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel will be on opposite sides this week for the first time. McDaniels was New England's offensive coordinator last year when Cassel had a breakout season. Cassel ended up being traded to Kansas City and signing a lucrative contract with the Chiefs.
Cassel also found his name included in the Broncos' offseason drama between McDaniels and quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler was upset when word got out that Denver asked about trading for Cassel, and after a long spat Cutler was traded to Chicago. Cassel said he didn't talk to anybody from the Broncos during that time and was surprised to see his name keep popping up.
"It was crazy, because I was watching ESPN like you were and saying 'How the heck did my name get thrown in here?'" Cassel said.
--Quarterback Kyle Orton is getting used to having a 6-foot-4 receiver in Brandon Marshall that he can throw the ball to and watch make a play. Marshall made two one-handed grabs against tight coverage last week against the Giants.
"He's the first guy I've had like this," Orton said. "It's been a change for me and my way of thinking, and trusting him to give him those chances. He's a phenomenal player, and I don't see too many people when the ball is in the air out-jumping him or being more physical than him."
--The Broncos should get right tackle Ryan Harris, who missed four games with a toe injury, back in the starting lineup this week. He looked good in practice Tuesday, and McDaniels said he will just have to deal with some pain upon his return.
"I think we're past the regressions part of that injury," McDaniels said. "There's obviously going to be a little bit of discomfort but he's done a nice job with his rehab so hopefully we feel like he's at a point now where we can move forward with it."
BY THE NUMBERS: 10-4 -- Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton's record in his last 14 starts, dating back to last season when he was with Chicago.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We'll have to play our best ball, and face a team that's playing really hard and playing good football as of late." -- Quarterback Kyle Orton on playing the Chiefs.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Broncos' offense doesn't often use a fullback. They don't list a fullback on their depth chart. But they have found a lot of success running behind Spencer Larsen, a converted linebacker.
Larsen is not a polished, natural fullback, having only started playing the position on a part-time basis last year. But he is very physical at the point of attack and the Broncos are running the ball much better since he became the top fullback option in the offense.
--S Darcel McBath has been a solid player for the Broncos, especially on special teams. He leads the team with 10 special teams tackles, and has filled in a couple times at safety when Brian Dawkins left with an injury.
--G Russ Hochstein has helped the Broncos' offense since being inserted into the starting lineup at left guard. Hochstein is bigger than former starter Ben Hamilton, and Denver has run the ball better in recent weeks since the change.
--RB Peyton Hillis hasn't had many opportunities this season. He was a healthy scratch the game before LaMont Jordan injured his back, and it appears Jordan will return this week. That leaves Hillis' status for Sunday's game in doubt.
--LB Elvis Dumervil has recorded 16 quarterback hits, which is by far the most on the Broncos. Nobody else has more than six. Dumervil has stayed productive because the Broncos have moved him around to help avoid double-team attention.
--CB Champ Bailey is fourth on the team in tackles. That's because he is one of the better tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, but also, teams are taking more shots his way this year. Bailey has broken up 10 passes this year.
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