ENGLEWOOD -- They hang over Justin Simmons like gathering clouds on an otherwise sun-bleached afternoon.
He is arguably the Broncos' best player, status he has earned the past two seasons. However, two issues remain in his blossoming career. He has never reached a Pro Bowl. And he's never beaten the Kansas City Chiefs.
It will be a shock if he fails to reach the Pro Bowl after last year's snub became obvious when he was named second-team All-Pro.
And, unfortunately for Simmons, it would be equally stunning if the Broncos snapped their 10-game losing streak to Kansas City, second longest in franchise history. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 11 consecutive games from 1964-69.
So what is the key to ending this growing indignity?
"The number one important thing is that you have get takeaways. You are not going to be (able to beat them without them.). They are a great offense, a great scheme. The biggest thing is that you have to get takeaways," Simmons said. "You go back and watch their playoff game against the Texans and they were down 24-0, and by halftime they were led (28-24). They can score in an instant. You have to get takeaways."
The Broncos failed dramatically against the Chiefs in their earlier meeting, routed 43-16. The Broncos committed four turnovers, including two interceptions by Drew Lock, and Kansas City countered with one. Lock threw a pick-six, amplifying the Broncos' problems. The Broncos rank last in giveaways and turnover margin, and 25th in takeaways.
Kansas City is so good it can play without urgency, toying with opponents. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is on pace for 44 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Lock, who has experienced a rocky ride in his second season, projects to finish with 10 touchdowns and 16 picks.
"We have to set up our offense with a short field," Simmons said. "And sometimes a victory is holding them to three (points)."
The Broncos are facing the possibility of a fourth straight losing for the first time since the drought of 1963-72. And, with a loss Sunday night, they will almost certainly sit out the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
Simmons is not the reason.
After betting on himself and signing a franchise tag, he has excelled. He has not missed a snap since the start of the 2018 season, a streak of 2,882 and counting.
His 15 interceptions rank tied for second most in Broncos history through a player's first five seasons, and he joined Hall of Famer Steve Atwater and Steve Foley as the only Denver safeties with multiple picks in each of their first five years.
So, yes, Simmons belongs in the Pro Bowl. He led last week in the voting, but surrendered it to Pittsburgh's Minkah Fitzpatrick.
"I don’t think about it too much. Last year at the end of the season, it definitely stunk not making the Pro Bowl and not making it as an alternate. The pick me up on the back end of that was being named an All-Pro player. I think All-Pro is more prestigious anyway," Simmons said. "At the end of the day, am I focused on it? No, not really. I’m focused on making as many plays as I can and trying to find ways to win on Sundays because that’s the biggest thing."
Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan was named Denver's 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award nominee. Callahan will miss the next three games with a foot injury, but has not ruled out returning for the final two games. ...
Fangio said Phillip Lindsay (knee), Malik Reed (shin) and receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) were limited in practice. ...
Kicker Brandon McManus missed practice for a non-injury related reason. ...
To have any chance of an upending the Chiefs, the Broncos must be perfect in the margins, namely special teams. "If we're going to win this game, we've got to win special teams," special teams coordinator Tom McMahon said. ...
Fangio on the return of safety Will Parks, who will provide depth in nickel and dime packages beginning next week. "It's a bonus. Anytime you pick up a guy this time of year, usually it's a guy with not much or if any history with the organization he's coming into. Obviously, that's not the case with Will. He left here last year because of an opportunity to go back home to Philly and it didn't work out for him there and as many players find out, the grass isn't always greener. I think he's very happy to be coming back here." ...
Receiver DaeSean Hamilton could return punts with Diontae Spencer on the COVID-19 restricted list and Callahan on injured reserve. Hamilton returned three punts in 2018.