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BRONCOS TRY TO KEEP PLAYOFF HOPES ALIVE

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It took Joe Montana's heroics for Kansas City to beat Denver in their first meeting. This time, Montana is one of many injured Chiefs, and the Broncos are on the upswing.

That puts Steve Bono on the spot Sunday when the Broncos visit Kansas City, and Denver's John Elway renews his special relationship with Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer.Denver (6-6) comes in with playoff hopes still alive after a dismal 0-4 start. Kansas City is down to 7-5 after failing to score a touchdown in a 10-9 loss at Seattle last week. Montana sprained his foot as the Chiefs fell two games behind San Diego in the AFC West.

The Chiefs' injured players slowly are recovering, but the club still listed 14 players on the official list. Key players such as defensive end Neil Smith, tackle John Alt and running back Marcus Allen practiced at midweek, but they probably will have limited roles if they play Sunday.

Schottenheimer said the emphasis has been on limiting the game plan.

"We're playing with guys that have not been that involved in the system," Schottenheimer said. "When you are struggling with something, you do less and you do it better. You follow your philosophy, and my philosophy is you do less so you do it better."

Like the Kansas City-Denver matchup, this weekend features mostly intradivisional games, such as Buffalo at Miami and New York at New England in the AFC East; Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the AFC Central; Los Angeles at San Diego in the other AFC West matchup, which will be Monday night; Atlanta at San Francisco and New Orleans at Los Angeles in the NFC West; Green Bay at Detroit in the NFC Central; and Dallas at Philadelphia in the NFC East.

Also, Arizona visits Houston, the New York Giants are at Cleveland, Indianapolis travels to Seattle and Washington goes to Tampa Bay.

The long weekend started Thursday night when Minnesota pulled into a tie for first in the NFC Central with a 33-27 overtime victory over Chicago. Cris Carter scored on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Warren Moon two plays after Kevin Butler missed a potential game-winning field goal from 40 yards away.

Denver decided after it dug itself a 1-5 hole to become more aggressive defensively. The Chiefs noticed the Broncos have won three in a row by blitzing more.

"The old adage is if you blitz and you do it efficiently, you will have success," Schottenheimer said. "If you don't do it efficiently, you end up getting burned. Right now, they are doing it very effectively."

Elway has recovered from some early season mistakes - three interceptions for touchdowns - to become his old self.

He passed for 382 yards two weeks ago, and Denver had just enough last week at home to beat Cincinnati in a game played in a driving wind and a minus-2 wind chill.

"The goal was to get to .500 and dig ourselves out of the hole," Elway said. "It seemed like the harder we tried, the worse it got. At 0-4, we wanted to start brand new, clean the slate. At 0-4, you're not sure you're ever going to win a game."

Elway said it was a credit to his teammates they held together during the adversity.