DENVER (AP) — If the Denver Broncos finally figure out how to beat Patrick Mahomes and end their 16-game losing streak to the Kansas City Chiefs, don't expect Sean Payton to be the life of the party.
He was suprisingly surly after the Broncos held off the Green Bay Packers 19-17 last weekend for his first home win and snapped a streak in which they'd lost an NFL record 10 consecutive games when leading at halftime.
Three of those blown leads came this season under Payton, who took exception when asked about it during an oddly combative postgame news conference.
Mistakenly thinking a reporter said “your team” when he actually said “this team,” Payton retorted, “MY team hasn't lost 10 straight,” then admonished the reporter to rephrase his question accordingly.
Payton dismissed the redirected question about the Broncos “getting over the hump.”
“It wasn't OUR hump — it wasn't OUR hump,” retorted Payton. “I'm saying that respectfully — it wasn't our hump. We're trying to win.”
After making a halftime lead finally hold up, the Broncos (2-5) have a much bigger challenge this weekend when they host the Chiefs (6-1) just 17 days after their 19-8 loss at Kansas City.
Maybe the quick turnaround for the rematch will help the Broncos, who haven't beaten the Chiefs since Week 2 of the 2015 season and haven't beaten Patrick Mahomes in 11 tries.
“It's a challenge” playing a division rival twice in less than three weeks, Mahomes said, “because there's so much familiarity. They know what we want to do. We know what they want to do. And now, how can each team execute at a high enough level to have success?”
Payton relayed during the week that his perfectionist nature makes it hard for him to enjoy success sometimes and also leads to him snapping at reporters or chewing out his coaches like he did Sunday.
When he and his family went out to dinner to celebrate the big win, Payton said he found himself circling the restaurant parking lot asking himself, “All right, why can't I be happy?”
“Well, you’re searching for the perfect game, and so I’m just that way," he concluded. “I’m gonna wear my emotions on my sleeve.”
Like it or not, when he accepted owner Greg Penner's $100 million over five years, the broken Broncos became Payton's team and the long losing streak to the Chiefs became his problem to solve.
Kansas City has won the West seven straight seasons and already has a three-game lead over the second-place Raiders this year.
Mahomes is an astonishing 16-0 on the road in the division over his career and on Sunday will seek to become the first quarterback in league history to beat an opponent 12 times without a loss.
If Mahomes makes it a dirty dozen, the Broncos would tie the Rams' futility against the 49ers from 1990-98 for the second-longest losing streak to one opponent in history and inch closer to the record 20 consecutive losses by the Bills to Miami during the 1970s.
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE
The Chiefs’ second-leading rusher behind Isiah Pacheco happens to be Mahomes, who has 214 yards on a whopping 6.5 yards per attempt this season. There are plenty of reasons for that success, beginning with his uncanny internal clock to know when to tuck and run, and his vast knowledge of the pass routes, which help him know where to run.
“I’m always looking to throw first knowing the guys are faster than me and can make the big plays,” Mahomes said. “And then whenever I run, I run scared, and try to get the first down and get out of bounds as fast as possible.”
Nobody has figured out a way to slow down Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is coming off a 12-catch, 179-yard effort in last week’s win over the Chargers. The Broncos even tried to rotate cover ace Patrick Surtain II onto him two weeks ago, and Kelce still had nine catches for 124 yards.
“Maybe we see a little more of that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Teams are taking and putting good players on Travis, or doubling him, but he and Patrick have a unique chemistry there.”
The Broncos have held the Chiefs to 19 points and the Packers to 17 after allowing a whopping 36.2 over the first five weeks.
“They’re playing good football,” Reid said, crediting Payton with shaking up the roster and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, formerly a Broncos head coach, for making effective adjustments. “They know how to maneuver. They've done a good job.”
With Broncos safety Kareem Jackson serving the first week of his two-game suspension for a vicious hit on Green Bay tight end Luke Musgrave, PJ Locke is expected to get his first start in his 51st career game. He made the game-sealing interception in the closing minutes Sunday after Jackson was disqualified for his fifth illegal hit of the season.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
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