ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When playing against Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it's not enough to just defend the play they've called.
You have to also be ready for whatever happens when Mahomes extends the play.
The Broncos got a taste of that last year in Denver, as Mahomes escaped the pocket and evaded a Von Miller sack. Mahomes flipped the ball to Tyreek Hill with his non-dominant left hand on a key scoring drive for the Chiefs in a comeback win.
"With a guy like this, you have to defend two plays: the one they've called and then the one he might create," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Monday. "That makes it tough."
Mahomes' athleticism allows him to make those plays — and it led Fangio to compare him to a quarterback that Broncos fans know well.
"I think he's like John Elway was in the '80s and '90s," Fangio said. "He's that guy. Like Aaron Rodgers has been for the last 12, 14 years — however many years he's been starting. He's kind of that guy. He's the great passer, the great improviser. He plays with a lot of athletic arrogance, which is a compliment. He's very confident in his ability. He's very poised, he doesn't get rattled and he's got an arm that is really, really good.
"He can make all the throws they are asking him to make and some that that [they] are not even asking him to make that just show up in his improvisations. He's good in the pocket, has good pocket feel. You can tell he's a gamer. The guy is really, really special."
If the Broncos can knock off Mahomes and the Chiefs at home, they'll move within a game of the Chiefs in the division standings.
And while every game is important in Fangio's mind, there's something to be said for beating the three-time division champs.
"I think every game is a measuring stick," Fangio said. "But, to your point, the Chiefs are the reigning champions in this division I think three years running. To some degree, it is."
TAKING THE POINTS
Midway through the second quarter, the Broncos faced a fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 35-yard line. Holding a 3-0 lead, Fangio sent his field-goal unit onto the field to attempt a 53-yard kick.
"It just became evident to me by that time that points were going to be hard to come by," Fangio said, "and I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to get some points."
The previous play may have contributed to Fangio's decision, as Phillip Lindsay had been stuffed for no gain on a run up the middle on third down.
Kicker Brandon McManus drilled the 53-yarder.
THE OTHER HARRIS
Cornerback Davontae Harris started the first game of his young career opposite of Chris Harris Jr., andhe did enough to earn another start against the Chiefs.
"He did all right for his first start in the NFL," Fangio said. "Obviously they caught some balls on him, but I think overall he did fine considering where he came from. What's that saying? 'One man's trash is another man's treasure.' He didn't make Cincinnati's squad so we're glad to have him."
Fangio said Harris would continue to start for Denver.
After Emmanuel Sanders exited the game with a knee injury, DaeSean Hamilton caught a pair of passes for 25 yards. The young player did not catch a pass against Jacksonville and has just nine receptions on the season, but Fangio said Sunday's game action could provide a spark.
"It was good to see him catch some balls and contribute," Fangio said. "Hopefully this springboards him to better things. He hasn't had much production here in the early going. Sometimes just a couple good catches like that in a tight game will get you going, get your confidence back up. Like you guys have heard me say, you don't need to go sit on somebody's couch to get your confidence up. You have to go out and make a play or two. Now, all of a sudden, your confidence is up."