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'This is a season-changing game': Broncos focused on Kansas City as trip to Arrowhead awaits

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Chris Harris Jr. isn't focused on a Halloween party or Chad Kelly's release or any of the other noise that swirled around UCHealth Training Center on Wednesday.

All of his attention is on a game against the Chiefs that he called "season-changing" — and that's where his focus has been since Friday.

"If you didn't study all weekend and get a jump on these boys, then you ain't trying to win," Harris said Wednesday. "I've been studying and focusing on them the whole time. This is a big game. This is a season-changing game. And if you ain't focused on that [instead of] all this other bullcrap that's going on, you're missing the big point of this game. This is a big game that can change our season and get us back rolling."

Harris knows how close the Broncos were in Week 4 to finishing the job against the then-undefeated Chiefs.

With 12:47 to play on "Monday Night Football," the Broncos kicked a 46-yard field goal to take a 23-13 lead. From there, though, Denver let the game slip away. The Chiefs put together a six-minute, 20-second drive that spanned 75 yards to cut the lead to three. The Broncos answered with a three-and-out that took less than two minutes off the clock.

Patrick Mahomes made the most of that ensuing opportunity, driving the Chiefs 60 yards to take a four-point lead with 1:39 to play.

Denver's final drive fell short of the end zone as the Chiefs escaped Broncos Stadium at Mile High with a win.

And it happened, in Harris' eyes, because his team panicked.

"We did great," Harris said Wednesday. "It's kind of like we just went in panic mode in the fourth quarter. Everybody just [needs to] calm down when it gets like that, when we get situations like that. Just don't go in panic mode as a defense. Everybody just calm down and play football and read your keys. That's what really hurt us in that fourth quarter."

The task won't be any easier at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Broncos haven't won since Sept. 17, 2015. If they're going to break that streak, Harris sees a couple of key areas for improvement.

First, he must stay on the field.

During the Week 4 game, Harris was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter to receive an IV to replenish his fluids. Ahead of this game, Harris expects to load up on IVs during the week to make sure he can cover for extended periods of time — and to play his best football in the fourth quarter.

"I don't want to play like how I played in that fourth quarter last game," Harris said. "I was on fumes, kind of. I was just like hanging by a thread, just out there running. I want to be peaking, coming [with] my best in the fourth quarter of this game." 

He knows he can't afford to come out of the game against a quarterback as talented as Mahomes. As Head Coach Vance Joseph said earlier this season, the Broncos' big-time players must make big-time plays during crucial games.

Harris understands those expectations.

"We're going to Arrowhead, a hostile environment," Harris said, "so they need me — 25 — to come out here and make plays and have an all-star game, an All-Pro game."

The Broncos will also need to avoid a symptom that has Harris said has plagued other teams he's watched on film.

"I've been watching film on everybody else," Harris said. "Everybody else playing these guys are scared. They're playing [scared]. They're not challenging them. No. 10 [Tyreek Hill] is just running around free. That's not how we play. When we play them, we get up, we challenge them, put hands on them. That's how we come to play. We ain't coming to be scared and let guys run free all day."

Through three-and-a-half quarters on Oct. 1, that strategy worked well for the Broncos. If they can extend that effort for the whole game, the Broncos should get a win worth more than just a record-evening victory. 

Instead, Denver could find itself with a win that convinces more than just Broncos fans that this season has playoff potential.

It could convince the locker room.

"Obviously, this is the type of game that if we win, we sit back and say, 'You know, we are the team that we thought we were,'" Emmanuel Sanders said Wednesday. "It's just like looking in the mirror and sitting back and saying, 'Are you the person you think you are?'

"We're going to find out on Sunday."

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