Searching For The Bronco Killer

If you asked an NFL player to identify the team he gets the most amped-up to play against, odds are good that you'd get a clichéd answer about giving 100 percent no matter who the opponent is.

While there's surely a lot of truth in that sentiment, there's no denying that certain opponents tend to bring out the best in players. That can be particularly true in rivalry games, where the outcome means a little bit more. Going back as long as I can remember, the Chiefs have always seemed to have at least one player who turned in his best performances against the Denver Broncos. But with the most recent "Bronco Killer" now gone from Kansas City, the position is officially open.

Will someone new step up and assume the title for themselves? Or, at least for the time being, could the era of the Bronco Killer be over?

Before we examine a few possible candidates, let's look back at some of the biggest Bronco Killers of the past decade.


Eddie Kennison

The wide receiver's routinely strong performances against Denver were fueled by a personal animosity against the team and former head coach Mike Shanahan. Kennison signed with the Broncos prior to the 2001 season, but left the team after eight games.

Even today, over eight years later, the circumstances behind Kennison's exit are murky. Reportedly, with his father recovering from a heart attack and his wife hospitalized while dealing with a difficult pregnancy, Kennison went to Shanahan the night before a game in November and told the coach that his heart was no longer in football.

Whether Kennison fully explained his reasoning to Shanahan and his Denver teammates depends on whose side of the story you believe. After a few days, Kennison rethought his decision and asked to rejoin the team. Shanahan cut him instead.

The Chiefs signed Kennison a few weeks after his dismissal, and over the next seven years he proved to be a consistent thorn in the Broncos' side. After Denver traded for shutdown corner Champ Bailey in 2004, Kennison took his Bronco-slaying performances to the next level with a streak of four consecutive games with over 100 receiving yards from 2004-2005.


Dante Hall

Of all the electric plays the former Pro Bowl kick returner made throughout his career, the majority seemed to happen against Denver.

All told, Hall scored five touchdowns against the Broncos from 2002-2005. But it wasn't just the act of scoring points that puts him on this list – it was how he went about doing it.

Whether he was returning kicks or catching passes, every touchdown Hall scored against Denver went for a distance of at least 40 yards. Three of the five touchdowns were 75 yards or longer, and two of them went for more than 90 yards.

The most memorable of those plays, of course, was his 93-yard punt return against the Broncos in 2003. The play not only marked Hall's NFL record fourth-straight game with a kick return touchdown, it also proved to be the winning score of a game that both Kansas City and Denver had entered with unblemished records.


Larry Johnson

It would be difficult to find another offensive player who displayed the flat-out dominance over the Broncos that Johnson did during his time in Kansas City.

After taking over as the starting running back halfway through the 2005 season, Johnson became a one-man wrecking crew where the Broncos were concerned. In his five games as the starter against Denver, he averaged 131.4 rushing yards and a touchdown.

As impressive as they are, those numbers are actually harmed by Johnson's final game against the Broncos last December. Despite the Chiefs leading for most of the game, Johnson was only given 11 carries and amassed just 36 yards, making Chan Gailey the only person who ever found a way to slow him down against Denver.

Without that performance lowering his totals, Johnson would have averaged an astounding 155.25 yards on the ground in each game he started against the Broncos.


Who's Next?

With Johnson's recent departure, the Chiefs are officially in the market for a new Bronco Killer. Who will step up?

Since joining the AFC West in 2007, Chris Chambers has had a few strong games against Denver. But his last game fitting that description was over a year ago, and we can't say for sure whether he'll remain in Kansas City after this season.

Dwayne Bowe remains suspended for Sunday's matchup, but in four games against the Broncos, he's had 85 or more receiving yards in three. Bowe is a definite possibility to fill the void, but we'll have to withhold judgment for now.

Perhaps the answer is Matt Cassel, who had the best game of his career against Denver last season. Granted, he was with New England at the time, and the Broncos have changed considerably since then. But in the Patriots' 41-7 dismantling of Denver, Cassel threw for three touchdowns and finished with a quarterback rating of 136.3.

Based on his recent performances, the most likely candidate seems to be Jamaal Charles, who has yet to see any significant action against the Broncos in his career. If the Chiefs pull off a victory Sunday, Charles will surely be at the center of it.

Then again, maybe we're focusing on the wrong side of the ball. With Derrick Thomas – perhaps the greatest Bronco Killer of them all – having his number retired during halftime, what better time would there be for a defender to make some game-changing plays?

Unfortunately, we won't get a definitive answer to this issue on Sunday. It will take multiple games for someone to stake their claim to the title. Hopefully, though, we'll see at least one of these candidates emerge as the front-runner to the Bronco Killer throne.

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