Chiefs’ goal of AFC West supremacy still goes through Peyton Manning

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – He is in decline, some declare. His passes are no longer crisp and are wounded ducks, they add.

But the facts can’t be ignored despite the detractors around the league.

Nov. 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) applies pressure as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Nov. 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO: Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) applies pressure as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning holds a 13-1 career record (.929 win percentage), including the playoffs, and has six straight wins against the Chiefs since joining the AFC West in 2012.

Manning’s career mark against the Chiefs is tied for the third-highest win percentage against any single opponent by a starting quarterback since 1950 (minimum 10 starts, includes postseason).

“He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game,” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Extremely smart. It’s one thing to know what Peyton Manning is doing, but you have to stop it, too.”

The Chiefs also have to close tight windows and press at the line of scrimmage because Manning will put the ball where it needs to be.

“He’s super accurate,” Johnson said. “He’s one of those guys where you have plenty of stories in the NFL of guys who say, ‘Man, I was on this route, but Peyton Manning just threw a better ball than my coverage.’”

While Manning is a thorn in the Chiefs’ side, the 39-year-old signal caller prefers to not harp on the winning streak or accomplishments.

“I don’t know if it’s really worth trying to explain,” Manning said during Tuesday’s conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “Those games are in the past. Here we are, a new season, and that’s kind of what I’m thinking about the most – playing a good team at home that’s coming off a big win and beat what I think is a really good Houston team at their place.”

The Chiefs (1-0) are fresh off a 27-20 road win over the Houston Texans and look to snap Manning’s string of success Thursday night when the Broncos (1-0) visit Arrowhead Stadium.

And Manning isn’t taking the Chiefs lightly.

“They have a lot of momentum,” he said, “and like I said, it’s always been a tough test playing at Arrowhead, especially playing a team’s home opener. You know the crowd will be into it, you know the players will be excited. We’ll have our hands full.”

Manning has a point with the last statement.

The previous five games reflect close contests: 29-16 and 24-17 final scores in 2014; 35-28 and 27-17 in 2013; and a 17-9 outcome in 2013. The only game the Chiefs were blown out came during a 38-3 rout in the 2013 season finale.

Coach Andy Reid joined the Chiefs in 2014, and points out the close scores as a common denominator in recent clashes with the Manning-led Broncos.

“I’ll tell you what, they’ve all been different,” Reid said. “Some of them have been very close and we just came up short on them and the majority of them have been close, so they’re good battles.”

Some could argue the Broncos are in the Chiefs’ heads and a mental block exists when it comes to playing the divisional foe.

Reid, however, doesn’t buy that theory.

“I’ve never really thought of it that way,” Reid said. “Normally the best team goes out and wins, I mean, that’s how it normally works. That allows you to prepare yourself for that opponent. Just maximize it and you don’t worry about all that kind of stuff, I don’t think that necessarily matters.”

Johnson agreed with his head coach.

“I think we’re always optimistic when we play against Peyton,” Johnson said. “It’s always been pretty close – I can say that – but we always fell short. It’s a lot of parity in this league, so we just have to find a way to win.”

The Chiefs have come up short in recent years to knock off the Broncos, who have won the AFC West in three straight years.

And with aspirations to make a Super Bowl run, the Chiefs understand the old adage of, “To be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Until proven otherwise, that path still goes through Manning and the Broncos.

“We talk about what we want to do in winning the division and going to the playoffs,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “And it starts with your division and these guys are on top, yeah, it does start with that. Is it a must-win or anything? No, it’s another game and it’s the most important right now, home opener in our place.”

TALE OF THE TAPE

OFFENSE

• The Chiefs rank 10th in rushing (97 yards per game) and 11th in passing (233 yards per game).
• The Broncos rank 24th in rushing (69 yards per game) and 27th in passing (150 yards per game).

DEFENSE

• The Chiefs rank 15th against the run (98 yards allowed per game) and 23rd against the pass (298 yards allowed per game).
• The Broncos rank sixth against the run (73 yards allowed per game) and first against the pass (100 yards allowed per game).

THE LAST TIME

The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 29-16 at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13 of the 2014 season.

Despite losing six straight games to the Broncos, the Chiefs hold a 56-54 (.509) all-time advantage over Denver in 110 previous meetings (109 regular season, one postseason). The 56 wins against the Broncos are the Chiefs’ second-highest win total against any individual opponent (58 vs. Oakland Raiders).

Kansas City holds a 24-19 (.558) margin against Denver at Arrowhead Stadium, and Week 2 marks the third time the two teams will square off on Thursday Night Football.

CONNENCTIONS

• Broncos cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris played collegiately at Kansas and were members of the Jayhawks’ 2008 Orange Bowl team.
• Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Harris and defensive lineman Vance Walker played for the Chiefs in 2014.
• Broncos rookie outside linebacker Shane Ray hails from Kansas City and attended Bishop Meige High School and the University of Missouri.

QUOTABLE

Former Chiefs and Kansas State great, linebacker Gary Spani, on linebacker Derrick Johnson, who enters Thursday night with 993 career tackles and is in position to break Spani’s club record of 999 tackles:

“You don’t get a lot of times you get a pat on the back, so this is a pretty nice pat on the back.”

Coach Andy Reid on taking a question about the offensive line, the sixth of eight initial inquiries during Monday’s media conference call:

“I’m fired up that you guys are so interested in the offensive line; that’s a beautiful thing.”

Reid on the Chiefs potentially wearing red-on-red uniforms Thursday night:

“I didn’t think about the red-on-red, but I’ll have to ask on that, Herbie, doggone it.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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