Kansas City has not won in Denver under the Dick Vermeil regime, and Vermeil has never won playing in INVESCO Field at Mile High. Vermeil's first trip to the ‘Mile High City' as Rams head coach was not a pleasant one either as he lost his only game as the St. Louis Coach on foreign soil. Vermeil hopes this nationally televised ESPN game will be the start of a new victory trend.
"We'd like nothing better than to go to Denver and beat Denver," Vermeil said this week. "I've never experienced it. I went up there as a Rams head coach and got my butt handed to me."
Sunday's game will be the last one between the two clubs until Dec. 19 when the Broncos play at Arrowhead Stadium in what could decide the AFC West Crown. The Chiefs beat the Broncos last year at home thanks to the incredible punt return of Dante' Hall. But the Chiefs fell flat on their tails in Denver last year as Clinton Portis tore up the Chiefs. Still the Chiefs beat the Broncos by three games in the AFC West last year so this game is far more important to the Broncos than the Chiefs. Still both teams want to win to set the tone for the season.
Last year both the Chiefs and Broncos made the playoffs and that intensifies the battle but even if both teams stood 0-15 on the season; it would still be just as ferocious. Both squads will be unavailing new players and new schemes, the Chiefs with revamped defense will include a new starter at middle linebacker in Monty Beisel and they'll unveil their new place kicker Lawrence Tynes. The Broncos hope to plug-in second year running back Quentin Griffin into their offense and hope some new personnel in their defensive backfield most notably safety John Lynch and shutdown corner Champ Bailey.
Griffin, who will have huge shoes to fill with the departure of Chiefs nemesis Clinton Portis who traded in the off-season for Bailey. Portis gained 359 yards and found the endzone six times in just two games against the Chiefs in 2003.
"People tend to forget that Quentin is actually 7 or 8 pounds heavier than Clinton," Head coach Mike Shanahan said. "They tend to get caught up in looking only at his height. I think he'll do a good job."
Tynes and Chiefs fans hope he can follow in the footsteps of Nick Lowery who succeeded Jan Stenerud like he is doing now replacing veteran Morten Andersen. In 1980 Lowery was the young kicker and ended up beating out Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud. Like Lowery, Tynes will have to win the fans over with a couple game-winning kicks and good start will be in Denver. Plus the Rocky Mountain air could put Tynes in a position to challenge the NFL record for the longest field goal.
"He's got to show he's confident," said Lowery to the Topeka Capital Journal, a member of the Chiefs' Hall of Fame. "Not just in what he says, but in his body language and how he conducts himself. I think he's got that."
The Chiefs enter the game with a wrath of injuries to their receiving group as Marc Boerigter, who had surgery is lost for the season and rookie tight end Kris Wilson who suffered a broken fibula will be out at least the first eight games. Those injuries mean that rookie Samie Parker who is battling a hamstring problem and Richard Smith could both see action on Sunday night.
"I don't know if he'll (Morton) have the stamina you need or anything like that, but we'll rotate him through and I believe he'll make a big play" Vermeil said on KC Chiefs.com
The Broncos will also be playing for something extra tomorrow night; Shanahan is just one victory shy from 100 in his professional coaching career. If the Chiefs want to win in the thin air in the Rocky Mountain state they'll have to set aside the fact that they lost three in a row in Denver.
But with the return of Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator, that might change the fortunes of the Chiefs outcomes against the Broncos especially in Denver. As defensive coordinator and head coach, Cunningham was 8-4 against Denver.
Chiefs fans know the offense is strong but this game will be judged on the performance of the defense and Cunningham is a master strategist when it comes to stopping the Broncos and it's a safe bet that he'll have just the game plan to put pressure on Denver quarterback Jake Plummer, who has struggled mightily in the pre-season.
If they can force Plummer into obvious passing situations, the Chiefs could be in a position to start the season 1-0.