DENVER — Ahead of the Broncos' Week 8 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, Head Coach Sean Payton described Denver's game as a chance to see how his team compared to the defending Super Bowl champs.
"Bill [Parcells] used to always say, 'Hey, it gives you a chance to know where you stack up,'" Payton said Friday. "I think when you get up in class with a team like this, you find out."
And find out, the Broncos did.
In a 24-9 victory over Kansas City (6-2), the Broncos demonstrated the ability to play outstanding defense and to control the game on offense. They weren't perfect, but they were more than good enough to snap a 16-game losing streak to Kansas City and hand Patrick Mahomes his first division road loss of his career.
The Broncos carried a five-point edge into the final frame and then outscored the Chiefs 10-0 in the final 15 minutes.
"In a three-hour game, there's that emotion and that momentum — you talk about it, you want to keep it when you have it, then quickly rebound," Payton said. "There are certain things that take place in the flow of a game. I said to [the team] before the game, I said, 'Look, recognize the team you're playing. You're not going to win this game in the first two or three quarters. You're going to have to win this game [in the fourth], so get on to the next play.'"
Denver did just that, and — in the process — earned a win that may have done more than snap a 16-game streak to a division rival. The Broncos, with a victory over the Chiefs, may have also changed the trajectory of their season.
"I think it makes us believers," right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "I truly do. I think this is a win that can really do something special for an organization — to take down the defending champs, to have it be our second in a row at home. … It's starting to come together, and we've just got to keep getting better from it."
The Broncos weren't perfect on Sunday, but they did offer a blueprint of the caliber of football they're capable of playing. Denver's defense forced four turnovers, and the offense started 3-of-4 in the red zone before bleeding the clock on the final possession of the game.
"We set the standard today by how good we can be," Wilson said. "We have a lot more season left. I've been saying to you guys: It's a process, it's a journey, but we believe. We believe in who we are. We believe in the players that we have. We believe in the coaching staff that we have. We believe in the determination and resilience that we have. We believe in this organization and where we can go and what we can do. We're going to stay the course."
With a loss, the Broncos would have fallen to 2-6 and allowed another chance to stack wins slip away. According to Pro Football Reference, just three teams since the merger have made the postseason after starting 2-6 — and no team has earned a wild-card berth. By comparison, three teams in the last five years have earned a wild-card berth after starting 3-5.
As the Broncos head into their bye, a win over the Chiefs gives Denver a chance to make a second-half run and provides new hope for the 2023 season.
"It changes a lot, a lot is up for grabs," cornerback Pat Surtain II said. "We still have a lot of ball games left. … [We've] got a good spot right now, and we're just going to be looking to improve."
After a big win over the Chiefs, the Broncos could be looking to do much more.