Can Broncos' great rookie class help them end Chiefs' spell?

The Kansas City Chiefs stumbled to a 3-4 start, but Vic Fangio didn't pay much attention. He knows they've fixed whatever was broken, haven't lost since October and are back to being the Chiefs again.

The Broncos had stumbled to a 38-53 mark since winning Super Bowl 50, while the same team that had won the AFC West every year since 2016 had a cumulative 73-28 record.

The Chiefs opened as a 912 point favorites. Fangio thinks the Broncos can beat the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time in a dozen tries on Sunday night.

Fangio said that the Broncos are better than the recent teams. We have a better team.

A win on Sunday will vault the Broncos into first place in the division, a spot they haven't seen since Manning was their quarterback, and it's loaded with young talent that points to a bright future in Denver.

The Broncos had six rookies play important roles in their win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The ninth overall pick in the draft had two fourth-quarter picks, one in the end zone and the other a 70 yard pick six.

He played all 71 snaps and was joined by inside linebacker Baron Browning, who had seven tackles, a pass breakup and a sack that was nullified by a penalty, and safety Caden Sterns, who had a tackle and a pass breakup in his first career start.

Bradley Chubb made his first start since recovering from ankle surgery in September and pass-rusher Jonathon Cooper played 49 snaps.

When Calvin Anderson got hurt, practice squad call-up Quinn Bailey was pressed into duty at left tackle.

The patchwork line helped spring Gordon III and Williams.

Bailey earned a game ball from Fangio, which sent his teammates into a wild locker room celebration.

Fangio said that people like to see good guys experience good things.

What is working?

The class of 2021. He's broken up a dozen passes, too, Fangio said. They don't get the same buzz as the picks, but they're still critical.

What needs help?

Noah Fant, the Broncos' first-round draft pick who was supposed to be a big threat in the passing game but whose yards per reception have gone down from his freshman year to this year, is currently on pace for his worst season. He had three catches for 12 yards on Sunday.

Stock up.

George Paton, the franchise's biggest hire since John Elway joined the front office, was hired by team president and CEO Joe Ellis. Elway, the team's president of football operations, has seen his stock rise because of the financial shape he left the team in when he became the general manager.

Stock down.

Drew Lock has thrown two picks in just 18 pass attempts in two relief appearances this season. Lock replaced a concussed Teddy Bridgewater against Baltimore in Week 4 and was 12 for 21 and the same completion rate as he had on Sunday when he was 4 for 7 and fumbled on his second snap.

It's different for a guy who has never come off the bench. We probably aren't giving Drew enough reps during the week, so we don't make an excuse for him. He needs to learn to do better at that and maybe we need to have a better list of what he's comfortable with.

There are injuries.

Fangio is hoping that his O-line will be close to full strength for the game against Kansas City, with Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, and Bobby Massie all expected to return. Fangio said that he expects to get S Kareem Jackson back and that the shin issue of Teddy Bridgewater wasn't an issue Monday.

The key numbers are.

Chubb played in his first game since ankle surgery. Fangio hopes that he will make big strides this week after getting out there.

The Broncos' third-down conversion rate was the best since 1991. Denver converted 8 of 11 third-down chances.

What will happen next?

If the Broncos can beat Patrick Mahomes for the first time in eight tries, they'll get the winless Lions and the Bengals at home the following two weeks with a chance to finally make some noise in the division.


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