DENVER • There are certain things Kansas Citians shouldn’t do here in Colorado.
No. 1: Stay. It’s always cold, snow’s too much, traffic’s terrrrible.
No. 2: Take weed across the border. Still illegal.
No. 3: Expose reigning NFL MVP and injured superstar Patrick Mahomes to linebackers who are 6-foot-2, 255 pounds and believe, in their heart of hearts, they are dinosaurs.
“I can be any dinosaur,” bruising linebacker Alexander Johnson said after the Broncos wrapped up a 16-0 beatdown of the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
“I like to think of myself from ‘Jurassic World’ where you’ve got that modified dinosaur — I forgot the name of it — that can do everything. It can hunt. It can relate with humans. What’s it called? The velociraptor, you know.”
OK, then. This Denver-Kansas City game Thursday night just took a turn for the Cretaceous Period. And, while it’s been roughly 165 million years since the Broncos beat the Chiefs — OK, it’s been six games, since 2015 — this is meant to help Kansas City in the long run: Do not play Patrick Mahomes on Thursday.
- Woody Paige firstname.lastname@example.org
Hey, the Chiefs don’t need a word of advice from some silly columnist in Colorado. (Or maybe they do, considering K.C. hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in half a century.) But I love seeing Mahomes fire lasers around the field as much as the next football fan, so this comes from the bottom of my heart: Sit the man. Give Mahomes a Microsoft Surface to study the game at hand and find him a comfy lawn chair where he can elevate his faulty left ankle.
The Broncos on Sunday had seven sacks and three interceptions for the first time in 25 years. They’re not a better team than the Chiefs, but they are thumping quarterbacks in a way they haven’t since the Super Bowl 50 season.
Mahomes, the best show in sports, has limped around the field with a bum ankle in two straight games — both of them Chiefs losses. All it would take to end K.C’s long-shot dreams of beating the Patriots in the playoffs is Johnson unleashing his inner raptor on Mahomes’ left ankle.
Crunch. Season over. Seriously, get a load of the guy who’s changed the entire complexion of the Broncos defense in just two starts. Do you really want Mahomes hobbling around against this?
“It ain’t huge. But it’s big, fast and strong,” Johnson said of his alternate persona, the raptor. “A lot of people be like, ‘Are you a T-Rex?’ I can be a T-Rex at certain times. But when it’s time for me to move and hunt and go fast and seek and hunt stuff, velociraptor.”
Last time I warned a team against suiting up its star quarterback, the Colts put Andrew Luck on the field against the “No Fly Zone,” and Luck finished the game with a lacerated kidney. He’s now retired. Plus, Denver’s 2-4 record is a poor representation of how it’s playing. The Broncos ‘D’ hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown since Vic Fangio plugged in Johnson at linebacker and Highlands Ranch High bully Mike Purcell on the defensive line.
Ask Marcus Mariota. Tennessee’s quarterback didn’t make it through the third quarter on Sunday before he was yanked with a 9.5 quarterback rating. (Not a typo. 9.5.) His possession chart read like a punter’s dream and a quarterback’s nightmare: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. Perhaps to mix in some variety, Mariota closed the first half with an interception. The Broncos did the same thing last week to Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, who failed to score a touchdown.
“I’m already thinking about the Chiefs. I’m done with this game already,” Derek Wolfe said.
If Mahomes were healthy, I wouldn’t give the Broncos a shot to end their losing streak against the Chiefs. Too many weapons for the Chiefs and not enough healthy defensive backs for the Broncos. But he’s not, as his minus-6 passing yards in the fourth quarter on Sunday showed.
The Broncos, meanwhile, piled up seven sacks and only .5 came from Von Miller. They finished off a thumptastic shutout — the team’s first since the 2017 season against the Jets — with an interception by Kareem Jackson at the goal line. They posed for a photo for posterity’s sake.
“Guys are calling themselves the GOAT and stuff like that,” Johnson said. “I’m the dinosaur, and dinosaurs eat the goat.”
Immediately after the game, Fangio gave them “2 hours to celebrate” before attention turned to Thursday night against Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Chris Harris Jr. needed 2 minutes.
“I’m hyped up, man. I can’t wait,” Harris said. “Y’all don’t have to ask me anything about the Titans anymore. I’m ready for the Chiefs.”
Down the tunnel and in front of his locker, Johnson explained what exactly it means to play football like a dinosaur. He said the opponent is the helpless meal, and he’s the predator. Not finished yet, “AJ” mimicked the high-pitched screech of a raptor: “Rrrrrrawwwww.”
Empower Field is such an unusual name for a stadium, anyway. Welcome to Jurassic Park.