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Broncos search for answers after 23-3 loss extends Chiefs' streak

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Von Miller has lived through some of the best of the Broncos' luck against the Chiefs.

From 2012 to 2015, the Broncos won seven consecutive games over their AFC West rival as they rolled to four division titles, a pair of Super Bowls and a Super Bowl 50 win.

Now, Miller is living through the worst of it, as well.

The Chiefs' 23-3 win over the Broncos at a snowy Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday extended Kansas City's win streak to nine over Denver. The Broncos have not beaten the Chiefs since a Week 2 game in Kansas City in 2015.

Kansas City's streak is the second longest in the series' history. Only the Chiefs' 11-game winning streak from 1964 to 1969 lasted longer.

"I really don't even know what to say," an emotional Miller said after the game. "I don't know how we got to this point. I don't know why it went like this. I don't know what to say. It's tough. It's tough being where we're at. It's tough being 30 years old and to go out with whatever issues I'm dealing with and still coming out so short. It's tough playing nine years with Chris Harris [Jr.]. It's tough dealing with these last couple months, especially with the type of standard that we had whenever we came into the league. We went to the playoffs five [years] straight. I know I'm getting ahead of myself and talking about more than just the game. It's just tough. I'm really lost for words."

The margin was different and the plays weren't the same, but the Broncos lost the game to the Chiefs in a similar fashion to many of the previous eight.

Patrick Mahomes, who improved to 5-0 against the Broncos, rendered the snow that fell during the game moot as he completed 27-of-34 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns and a 115.7 quarterback rating. Only a fourth-quarter interception marred Mahomes' day.

Tight end Travis Kelce, meanwhile, caught 11 passes for 142 yards — and Tyreek Hill added a pair of touchdown catches.

Hill opened the scoring with a 41-yard reception, and though the Broncos held the Chiefs to field goals on their next two possessions, Denver was never able to close the gap.

"Mahomes, he's a great quarterback," Miller said. "They've got a great team, run and pass. It's probably easier for them to pass in these conditions, getting Kelce one-on-one up the field. It's already hard enough to guard him on grass, on clean grass, and you mix in snow, it's a tough deal for the DBs. It's a tough deal for everybody that was out there. It was tough. Those guys played great. They've had a great team for a long time, hats off to those guys."

Head Coach Vic Fangio said the team threw different coverages at the 2018 MVP, but they weren't often able to convert their chances.

"We just couldn't make a play in coverage," Fangio said. "We played a lot of different coverages, and we had a hard time making a play both on the front of the ball and the pass rush."

Mahomes had 210 yards passing at halftime as the Chiefs took a double-digit lead to the locker room.

Drew Lock, who made his return to Kansas City after growing up just miles away from Arrowhead, was unable to match Mahomes.

"It's disappointing, but it didn't have anything to do with coming home," Lock said. "I'd be disappointed anywhere in the country if I played like this. When you come out of a loss, you're never going to be excited. Disappointed will always be your reaction. It is what is after a loss like that."

Lock completed 18-of-40 passes for 208 yards, an interception and a 50.8 quarterback rating as he fell for the first time as a starter.

"It was a tough day," Fangio said. "Obviously when we only score three, there's not much good there. But I thought he handled the conditions well. I think it's a game under these conditions that he can bank and learn from."

The Broncos' offense picked up just five first-half first downs and scored three points. The Broncos' best chance — after their first three drives ended in punts — came after they converted a fourth-and-1 with 3:46 to play in the half.

Trailing 12-0, the Broncos took the risk from their own 48-yard line. Quarterback Drew Lock faked a handoff and then lofted a throw down the left sideline to Noah Fant. The 43-yard pass moved Denver to the Kansas City 9-yard line, but Tyrann Mathieu broke up a pass to Courtland Sutton on second down, and the Broncos ended up settling for a field goal.

They wouldn't score again, as Lock threw a second-half interception in the team's only other red-zone trip.

"We've just got to be better down there," Lock said. "I thought we'd been pretty good in the weeks before, but they got us down there."

It was never going to be an easy task.

The Broncos are now just 3-15 in December in Kansas City since Arrowhead opened in 1972, and rookie Drew Lock was unable to join John Elway, Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton as quarterbacks to win in Arrowhead in December.

"Well, they're really good," Fangio said of this year's iteration of the Chiefs. "Their record the last few years is indicative of that. They lost an overtime game to go to the Super Bowl last year. They're really good. They've got a lot of talent on offense, and they seem to have rectified their defense here in the last month or two. I know they've done very well against us in our two games."

The Broncos' loss ended their slim hopes of a wild-card berth and guaranteed no better than a 7-9 finish. Denver will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and the organization has posted three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1970-72.

Lock, however, maintained an optimistic approach as the team moves toward two home games to end its season.

"I think as people look at this, I think it'll definitely be blown up," Lock said. "We got our butts kicked today. But there were so many opportunities for us to make plays. And as bad as people are going to say it looked and we feel right now, we're going to go back, we're going to watch it and we're going to realize there were plays there to be made. If we make a couple here and there, that's a different game."

Miller said he's not losing hope either, but he knows everyone on the team must pull a little more weight. 

That's what it will take for the Broncos to snap the streak against the Chiefs and return to contention.

"Drew is definitely the future," Miller said. "It's everybody around. Guys have got to get open; the offensive line's got to block; we've got to run the ball. Just cliché little stuff. Drew's doing what he needs to do. [On] defense, we need to stop the run; we've got to rush the passer; we've got to play tight coverage. I sound like a broken record up here. We're saying the same thing. We found a quarterback. We've got a great quarterback, but everybody else has got to know you can't just lean on one guy — offense, defense special teams. It's the pros. You can't just lean on one guy to do it all or save you. It has to be a collective effort by the foundation of the team. When you get stars, stars are going to take you to the next level. We've got one at quarterback, we've got a receiver. We've got guys all around, but we've got to come on with it." 

This one, though, will hurt for at least a while. That was clear watching Lock, who made his third start, and Miller, who made his 133rd. 

"For me, I guess it just looks different from my lens. I'm 30 years old. I've been playing in the league nine years. I'm ready to hit the gear, I'm ready to go again. I'm ready to bring whatever we had in the past back. I want that back. Down year, two down years, three down years, four down years. We did that. Now I'm trying to get back going again, and whenever you — and I'm not just in it for me — but whenever we put it all out there, we play hard … and we come up short, it's definitely defeating. It's more than just winning and losing.  

"It defeats my soul to go out there and play the way we play and lose the way we lose."

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