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How Case Keenum could be the Broncos' first line of defense vs. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Most of the questions this week about how to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense will be lobbed at Vance Joseph, Joe Woods, Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr.

And for good reason.

Joseph and Woods will take the lead on assembling a defensive game plan that can slow the NFL's top scoring team, and Miller and Harris will guide the group looking to execute that plan.

Case Keenum, though, may be almost as important to the Broncos' efforts.

In some ways, he's the first line of defense.

"For me, there's nothing I can do to defend their offense except keep them on the sideline," Keenum said. "For us, it's converting third downs. It's making first downs, scoring points, keeping their offense on the sideline. We've got confidence in our defense to stop them, especially when we really need them to — just like they've done all year.

"But I think our best defense is when Von is over on the sideline pumping the crowd up — and I'm trying to get them to be quiet — while we're moving down the field."

Keenum's goal to hold the ball and move down the field will not be without challenges. The Chiefs rank 29th in the league in points allowed, but they've allowed their opponents to convert just 25.8 percent of their third-down attempts. That's the best mark in the league, and it's a big reason the Chiefs are 3-0.

"Obviously, they're scoring a lot of points," Keenum said. "Statistically, they're giving up yards, but man, they're doing really well on third down. They're getting teams in third-and-long. Obviously, they can rush the passer. They've got some guys that can get after the quarterback. And they're solid in the back end. They've got some veteran guys that have played a lot back there. They give you a lot of different looks.

"I'm excited to get out there on Monday night. We've got a really, really good challenge for us."

After watching Keenum during the first three weeks, Joseph said he has reason to believe the Broncos' quarterback will continue to improve. That could bode well for the Broncos' chances to convert third downs and score points against the Chiefs.

"Case is getting better and better each week," Joseph said. "Week 1 — outside of the turnovers — he made some plays for us, same with Week 2. Week 3, we ran the ball, made some plays. It was really penalties that pushed us out of scoring range. We could've scored 20 more points last week. If we do that, everything changes. I've been really pleased with how Case has played. He's going to play better and better for us."

Keenum seemed to agree with the final line of Joseph's assessment, which allowed for room for the seventh-year quarterback to continue to grow in his first year with the Broncos.

"At times, I'm where I want to be, but at times I'm not," Keenum said. "I guess you could say, overall, I'm still a long way from where I want to be. I feel like this offense can be really, really, really good, and at times we are. At times, we're moving, we're rolling, and other times, for whatever reason, we're getting off the field. Just keep building. We're going to keep building this house, we've built a great foundation."

If that foundation is strong enough, it could help the Broncos beat the Chiefs.

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