ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Drew Lock has lost just three times in his young career.
Twice, really, if you grant him a bit of slack and decide not to count a Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh in which he played just two series and exited when the score remained 0-0.
One of those losses, a 16-14 defeat at the hands of the Titans, was a competitive game late into the fourth quarter.
The other, regrettably, was not.
After a 2-0 start to his career, Lock led the Broncos to Kansas City for a Week 15 matchup last season — and the young quarterback and his teammates struggled in a 23-3 loss in the snow. Lock finished 18-of-40 for 208 yards, an interception and a 50.8 rating as the Broncos failed to score a touchdown and dropped their ninth consecutive game to the Chiefs.
It was a swift — albeit, brief — drop back to reality for the hometown kid, who grew up in Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
As the Broncos approach their first game against the Chiefs since Kansas City secured their first Super Bowl title in 50 years, Lock will aim to turn in a better performance against the Chiefs.
For a number of reasons — including that the Broncos can improve to 3-3 after 0-3 start — this opportunity looms large, particularly against a 5-1 Kansas City team that looks poised to challenge for a repeat title.
But asked whether the Broncos will use Sunday's game to compare themselves as a team to the Chiefs, Lock focused solely on the chance to earn a win — and on all the aspects that would make a victory sweet.
"The measuring stick there is that it's a division game," Lock said Wednesday. "That's big. If you're going to look at it in from the heart of Broncos Country, it's even bigger. It's the Kansas City Chiefs. And if you want to look at it from my heart, it might be pretty big too. It's my hometown — and at the same time I can't let that change the way I play. It's just a regular game. [I'll] go through my reads, try to push us down the field to score points. This is just another week this week. We're going to come out and prepare the same way, extremely hard, and be ready to go Sunday like it's any other Sunday."
Lock, though, admits that the idea of playing the Chiefs may never seem completely normal. His family, which used to pack Arrowhead Stadium on a regular basis, traded their red garb for orange gear last December. On Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High, they'll continue to support Lock.
"It's hard to forget 22 years of your life, especially because I'm only 23 now," Lock said. "This is my first full year out of Kansas City. Everyone remembers their hometown, so there will always be that feeling of, 'My parents are actually leaving Kansas City to come see the game,' type of deal. It's nothing that makes you play different or nothing that get me all amped up to play the game this week — that's not how it works. You should be amped up for every game every week.
"It is cool, I'll say that. It is cool to be able to put the Darth Vader mask on and steer away from the Jedi and come to the dark side, so to say, over here in Denver. I kind of like playing that guy. Hopefully, I can be that guy and get a win this Sunday and start the rivalry a little bit."
Lock knows the Broncos need to stop the nine-game streak to reignite their rivalry with Kansas City — he said Wednesday he'd already heard about the streak "three or four times" that day — but he doesn't believe he faces any more pressure to outduel Mahomes than he would in a normal week.
"As a quarterback, you pretty much feel that pressure every single game to put up points," Lock said. "Pat has been known to put up a lot of points in that offense. If you want to go off of stats and how many points they score a game, technically speaking, you want to be prepared to put up a lot of points up. I feel like our defense is playing their butts off right now. I'm proud of the way they played last week. They kept us in that game and there's no saying that they can't go out and play an awesome game on Sunday and do a great job — [S] Kareem [Jackson] and [S] Justin [Simmons], maybe get a few guys back on the D-line and just let those guys roll and come out with their A-game and see how things turn out."
Lock may have an advantage that he hasn't enjoyed yet in his young career, as he'll get to see a team for the second time. The Chiefs now feature a new defensive coordinator, but Lock has played against All-Pros in Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones.
"I found out a lot about who their players are on defense," Lock said. "It's always nice to be able to play a team — well, this will be my first time, actually — but playing a team you've already played and where you know those guys. You know how they move, you kind of know how they think. I saw Frank Clark rush the passer a couple times in that game, I saw Chris Jones rush the passer a couple times in that game — you just know what to be aware of. You get a good idea of who you think they are. Now, they could come out and throw something completely different at us, but it's a comforting feeling to know we've played this team before and we know what to kind of expect."
As Lock aims to be the foil to Mahomes and the Chiefs, he'll take every edge he can get.
Can't you hear Ed Rooney's voice echo in your head?
It's been nine consecutive wins for the Chiefs, which is the second-longest streak of the 120-game series between the two franchises. As Bradley Chubb explained Wednesday, the Broncos are more than eager to end that streak.
"You get tired of losing to this team, for sure," Chubb said. "You see them doing all this and winning a Super Bowl. They're in our division, so you have to take that personally, regardless if we've beat them or not in the past years. As a team, if we want to take that next step, this is a team you have to take that next step against. We talk about all the things we want to be. Now, we have to go out there on Sunday and have that mindset and prepare throughout the entire week and make sure everybody is on the same page."
Brandon McManus and Sylvester Williams — who left the Broncos for several years before rejoining them this year — are the only players on the active roster to beat the Chiefs with Denver.
Chubb and the Broncos perhaps came closest to a win in a 2018 home game, when they held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead before Mahomes made a series of outrageous plays to help Kansas City earn a comeback win. Chubb said the Broncos have focused on closing out games in recent weeks, and they've found success doing so against the Jets and Patriots.
"That's what has been holding us back these past two years is finishing out those close games on defense and having that identity that we're a team that will close out a game," Chubb said. "This year, guys are starting to buy into that and starting to realize that if we want to be everything that we talk about, we have to go out there on Sunday and actually do it. In the Jets game and the Patriots game, it came down to us in the last minute and we stuck it out. We're slowly starting to build that identity on defense and we've just got to keep gaining the confidence and seeing it happen. I feel like it's going to take us through the roof for sure."
If the Broncos are going to beat the Chiefs on Sunday, they'll likely need to be better in the red zone.
Denver's offense ranks 30th in red-zone percentage and against the Patriots, the Broncos failed to score touchdowns on each of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
"Everything gets squished up down there," Fangio said of the team's struggles. "The end line becomes the 12th defender for the defense. Things are tighter, things need to be more precise, and it's just tougher for the offense down there. The good red-zone offenses are able to run the ball down there too and have a good mix of run and pass. We haven't found our niche down there yet obviously."
Red-zone efficiency often seems to be one of the last aspects of an offense to click, but the Broncos hope to see a step forward against the Chiefs.
After being held without a sack in the Broncos' first three games, Chubb has totaled 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble over the last two weeks.
"He's definitely improving each and every week coming off the ACL," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "It's harder to see on a week-to-week basis to a degree, but if you compare Week 1 and Week 2 to Week 5, then you would see the difference. He's getting better and better, he's getting more confident on it, he's getting stronger on it, and it's reflected in his play."
Chubb said he was frustrated at times during that 0-3 start, but he had to remind himself to be patient.
"It's my job, and I want to go out there and dominate and be the number one player in everything that I do," Chubb said of his frustration. "I had to really look back at myself and tell myself, 'OK, you didn't have any preseason games or an off season to really feel it,' and after those games were over, I was like, 'OK, now you know that you're good. The hay is in the barn. You put all this hard work in and now you've got to go out there and do it.' … I had to stop feeling sorry for myself after those first three games and tell myself that I'm good, I put the work in, and the knee is going to be fine. Just go out there and play."
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is considered one of the finest offensive minds in football, which adds more credence to the compliments he paid Wednesday to both Lock and Fangio.
"Certain guys just play big," Reid said of Lock. "I mean, he is big, but he plays big in the pocket. He's not flinchy at all. He's got nice touch and seems like he has a very nice feel on what they are asking him to do. The beautiful thing is that he's only going to keep getting better with time, which is such a great thing."
And of Fangio, he said: "They play hard, number one. They are sound, and he's going to cover every base. I think they love playing for him. That's what it looks like to me. They fly around. Just look at the second half of the New England game — those guys were flying around and making plays everywhere. They have a lot of emotion."