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Way Back When: The Broncos' blood feud with the Chiefs

"Monday Night Football" and the Denver Broncos vs. the Kansas City Chiefs marks the renewal of one of the great blood feuds in the National Football League.

A "blood feud" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a rivalry between different clans or families."

These teams meet for the 117th time tonight, the seventh time on "Monday Night Football," and this is one of those rivalries that is not marked by a single game but by the essence of rivalry itself, like the Bears against the Packers.

One might point to the Oakland Raiders as Denver's chief rival, but I submit that Oakland started out American Football League play much like the Broncos did. Both were among the dregs of pro football.

But the Chiefs were not. They were royalty from the start (beginning as the Dallas Texans before their 1963 move to Missouri), and they seemed to revel in pounding the Broncos into submission.

Denver went 1-19 vs. the Chiefs in the entirety of AFL play and they held a 2-25 record midway into the fourth year after the AFL-NFL merger.

But had it not been for Lamar Hunt, founder of both the Chiefs franchise and the AFL in 1960 — and as legitimate a Hall of Famer as any administrator ever — there would have been no Broncos at all.

So this feud is among two teams that are close geographically, and it has that familial feel of a little brother who just had the bejeebers kicked out of him by the older brother. In fact, during the course of that winning streak by Kansas City cited earlier, the Chiefs scored 45 points or more eight times against Denver, and our fans truly learned to hate the Chiefs more with each grain of sand kicked in the Broncos' collective faces.

Yet, there is a great dignity and nobility to this rivalry.

A real rivalry must have greatness, and this one has plenty.

The Chiefs were first quarterbacked by Hall of Famer Len Dawson, and later by Joe Montana, who faced off against the Broncos' own nonpareil signal caller John Elway.

This being a Monday-night game, what fan does not remember one of the greatest "Monday Night Football" games of all time, the 1994 31-28 Kansas City win in the Mile High City in which each quarterback had a last-minute go-ahead touchdown drive, with Montana's unfortunately coming last.

Following Elway, Peyton Manning completely had his way with the Chiefs, winning all eight games in his four years in this rivalry.

Denver is 3-4 in Monday-night games vs. Kansas City, beginning when Ring of Fame quarterback Charley Johnson passed for over 400 yards in a 42-34 loss to the Chiefs.

There is a saying that revenge is best served cold, and since that ignominious 2-25 start against Kansas City, Denver has gone 53-36, including that exquisite win in the 1997 divisional playoff game on the road to the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXII championship.

No one has ever had as much Super Bowl revenge within the same division as the Broncos, who since then have been to eight title games, the second-highest total of any team, with Denver being one of nine teams claiming three Super Bowl wins.


And when the vote on the 2019 Hall of Fame Class is taken in February, the Broncos and Chiefs may be tied to each other once again. It is both hoped and expected that our great owner Pat Bowlen will be selected, and the senior committee player candidate is Johnny Robinson, the great safety from Kansas City who had both an interception and a fumble recovery in Super Bowl IV despite playing with three broken ribs.

And of course, when we speak of painful ribs, I think of two specific games.

One is Terrell Davis' magnificent performance in that 1997 divisional round playoff game, with the Hall of Famer scoring the winning touchdown despite bruised ribs. Head Coach Mike Shanahan later described that contest as the greatest game in which he ever coached.

The other game, of course, was another Monday-night matchup here in Denver, a Sept. 17, 1990, classic won by the Broncos, 24-23.

That was the Monday night when Ring of Fame safety Steve Atwater delivered the hit heard 'round the football world, stopping Kansas City fullback Christian Okoye in his tracks. It was the stuff of legend in Broncos history and in the Denver-Kansas City rivalry.  

When Atwater drove the massive 260-pound fullback backward, he cemented the win and created a still vivid memory for Broncos Country.

And now we have another "Monday Night Football" game with Kansas City, another chapter in the blood rivalry, the kind that only the closest of families can have.


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