The key plays, stats and grades from the KC Chiefs’ 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Player of the game: Rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ regular-season NFL debut was a success, as he completed 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards with an interception. He showed moxie and poise while leading the game-winning drive and displayed flashes of brilliance.
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Reason to hope: The backups beat (most of) the Broncos’ starters. Mahomes outshined Denver quarterback Paxton Lynch, a player the Chiefs could have ended up with a year before, had the Broncos not leapfrogged them in the NFL Draft.
Reason to mope: Injuries. A number of regular contributors got dinged up to varying degrees on Sunday, including receiver De’Anthony Thomas (fractured leg), defensive lineman Rakeem Hunez-Roches (sprained ankle) and running back Akeem Hunt (sprained ankle).
Looking ahead: The Chiefs (10-6) head to the playoffs, where they will host the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium in the Wild Card round next weekend. The Chiefs are 3-7, all-time, in the Wild Card round. They are 2-1 at home in the round, however. The Titans are 1-2 against the Chiefs since coach Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City in 2013.
Rushing offense: Entering the game, the Broncos’ run defense ranked third in the NFL, allowing 88.0 yards per contest. The Chiefs finished with 110 yards on 27 carries, an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Fullback Anthony Sherman rushed for 40 yards on 14 carries, both career highs, and a touchdown. Kareem Hunt broke off a 35-yard touchdown run that made him the NFL’s rushing leader for the season. Kudos to the Chiefs’ backups for moving the ball on a tough run defense.
Passing offense: Entering the game, the Broncos’ pass defense ranked fourth in the NFL, allowing 196.1 yards per contest. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 22 of 35 passes for 284 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 76.4. He was also sacked twice against a pass rush that ranked 20th in the league with 31 sacks entering the contest. Albert Wilson led the Chiefs in receiving with 147 yards on 10 catches, both career highs.
Rushing defense: Entering the game, the Broncos’ run offense ranked 13th in the NFL, allowing 116.1 yards per game. The Broncos on Sunday rushed 29 times for 110 yards, an average of 3.8 yards per carry. Running back C.J. Anderson surpassed 1,000 yards on the season by rushing for 61 yards on 18 carries. Again, this was a good job by the Chiefs backups against a team that wanted to establish the run.
Passing defense: Entering the game, the Broncos’ pass offense ranked 21st in the NFL with an average of 207.1 yards per contest. Quarterback Paxton Lynch completed 21 of 31 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 87.3. The Chiefs sacked him five times. They gave up some big plays, but they generally harrased Lynch all afternoon and created turnovers, as both inside linebacker Terrance Smith and cornerback Terrance Mitchell swiped passes.
Special teams: Kicker Harrison Butker kicked the game-winning field goal and also converted a 20-yarder. Punter Dustin Colquitt also dropped 1 of 5 punts inside the 20 and drilled an insane 77-yarder at the end of the second quarter. The Chiefs’ return squads didn’t do much, while they did yield a 32-yard kick return. But all in all, a good day for coach Dave Toub’s units.
Coaching: This was an outstanding job by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who still won the game despite resting his best players. None of the Chiefs’ upper-tier contributors got hurt, and the offensive gameplan — which revolved around the shotgun formations Mahomes is so comfortable with — helped maximize the rookie’s skills. You can nitpick some stuff here or there, but Reid’s decision to put Mahomes back in so Mahomes could gain some valuable experience in the two-minute drill paid off wonderfully. So did Reid’s decision to let Kareem Hunt play long enough (one drive) to become the NFL’s leading rusher. On defense, Bob Sutton got good production out of several young players at multiple levels of the defense, and only surrendered 17 points.