The Denver Broncos were no pushovers on Sunday night — a far cry from Week 7, when they fell to their rival Kansas City Chiefs by 27 points. But it takes a darn near flawless performance to upset Patrick Mahomes and Co. The Chiefs, for their part, were not perfect in this rematch, allowing the Broncos to go off on the ground and several times stumbling over themselves in scoring range. Still, they often looked as explosive as anyone when it mattered, with Travis Kelce flat-out dominating Denver’s defense in a 22-16 win.
The Chiefs’ close victory ensures a playoff berth and sweep of the Broncos in 2020, improving the AFC West leaders to 11-1 on the year, while dropping Drew Lock and Denver to 4-8 and a clear third-place spot.
Here are some instant takeaways from Sunday night’s AFC West clash:
Why the Chiefs won
You could fill this section in with any combo of “Patrick Mahomes,” “Tyreek Hill,” “Travis Kelce,” etc. and probably be spot on 98 percent of the time. And this was not even a great outing for the Chiefs offense, from a statistical perspective! Yet on a night Kansas City finished just 3 of 10 on third downs, was outpossessed by a young Broncos squad and never once “put the game away,” Mahomes and Kelce were unstoppable when they needed to be. If not for a that wasn’t challenged, Hill would’ve had gaudy numbers and a huge touchdown, too. Yes, the defense forced two turnovers, including the game-sealer at the end, but as is often the case, these guys won because they can afford to play loosey-goosey for half the contest; their coach, QB and offense are too darn good.
Why the Broncos lost
They never quite put the dagger in offensively. Denver’s “D” wasn’t necessarily stingy Sunday night as much as it walked into some rare Mahomes misfires/miscommunications and/or Andy Reid’s complete abandonment of the run game, but that unit fared well enough from start to finish. The bigger issue was that when the Broncos actually held the ball (and they held it longer than the Chiefs), they couldn’t turn big drives into big points. Settling for three early, trying for three near the half — those kinds of decisions are fine when you’re playing the Raiders in a 16-13 ballgame, but not against the Chiefs. Drew Lock, meanwhile, was good but not great; his supporting cast, save for an energized Melvin Gordon, didn’t always help him out, either.
Just over six minutes remaining. Broncos down three. The ball is at their own 49. Drew Lock had just fired to K.J. Hamler on third-and-3, and the rookie just barely missed out on hauling in a new set of downs. But on fourth-and-3, Fangio opted to punt the ball back to the Chiefs. Now, had Denver gone for it and failed, K.C. would’ve been guaranteed points. But gifting Mahomes and the Chiefs another possession, already down late in the fourth? Not a great recipe for success. Turns out, the Chiefs only needed five plays to get into Denver territory after that, and their field goal with 1:09 left all but sealed the win.
Play of the game
Maybe this shouldn’t count, but it was an incredible catch anyway. Tyreek Hill’s first would-be TD, which was ruled incomplete and didn’t warrant a challenge from the Chiefs, showcased some great concentration from the star wideout:
The Chiefs (11-1) will hit the road in Week 14 for a matchup with the Miami Dolphins (8-4), who edged the Bengals on Sunday. The Broncos (4-8), meanwhile, will travel to Carolina for a showdown with the Panthers (4-8), who are coming off their bye.