Key play: On Peyton Manning’s very first pass attempt, Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted a floater over the middle. The play set up the Chiefs’ first touchdown and set the tone for the game.
Key stat: The Chiefs’ average drive started at their own 46-yard line.
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Key play: Take your pick of any of Cairo Santos’ three second quarter field goals, but his last one — which came right before the half — gave the Chiefs a 19-0 lead and some added breathing room.
Key stat: Manning, the Chiefs’ yearly tormentor, had a quarterback rating of 0.0 by halftime.
Key play: Ron Parker’s interception of Manning was the Chiefs’ fourth of the day. It essentially prompted the Broncos to waive the white flag and bring in Brock Osweiler.
Key stat: By the end of the third quarter, the Broncos were a miserable 0-for-9 on third downs.
Key play: Safety Eric Berry ended any hope of a Broncos comeback with his fourth-down interception of Osweiler in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Key stat: Here’s how convincing this win was: the Chiefs won despite doubling the Broncos in penalties (11 of 5) and nearly doubling them in penalty yardage (102 to 55).
The numbers aren’t otherworldly — 106 yards in 32 carries for a 3.3 average — but the Chiefs managed to run the football effectively enough to win. Charcandrick West had 69 yards and a touchdown in 24 carries, and has continued his recent trend of running hard and decisive.
Again, the Chiefs left some plays on the field here, as Alex Smith misfired on at least two throws that should have gone for touchdowns, and they settled for far too many field goals. But when the defense was dominating like it was, all Smith had to do was take care of the ball, and he did that. Zero fumbles or interceptions, and he also connected with Charcandrick West on an 80-yard catch-and-run that put the final nail in the Broncos’ coffin. Also, kudos to the Chiefs’ oft-criticized offensive line for surrendering only two sacks against a pass rush that is strong, even without DeMarcus Ware.
The Broncos rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries for a 4.3 average, but don’t be fooled by that. The touchdown came when the game was over and done with, and the Broncos only had 39 yards entering the fourth quarter. The Chiefs’ defensive front dominated the point of attack and took care of business, despite the absence of one of their best players in defensive end Allen Bailey.
Here is where the Chiefs really shined. After years of being tortured by Manning, the Chiefs’ secondary finally won a battle against him. Peters set the tone with his first-quarter interception, and the Chiefs tallied five picks on the day. Up front, the Chiefs harassed the Broncos’ quarterbacks all game long, sacking Manning and Osweiler five times and hitting them nine times.
Dustin Colquitt was his usual brilliant self, dropping four of his five punts inside the 20, while kicker Cairo Santos drillled five of his six field-goal attempts, including three from 48 yards or more. Santos also drilled all seven of his kickoffs for touchbacks. The Chiefs’ return units were a non-factor, but given the role Santos played in this win, they still get an A.
Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton have taken some flack for their play-calling, but give credit where it’s due. Linebacker Derrick Johnson noted how prepared the Chiefs were defensively, and Sutton and his staff deserve credit for that. And while Reid and the offense got a little too cute at times, the game plan was solid and allowed them to make enough plays to complement a dominant defense. The Chiefs played hard and with an edge, and some of that is coaching, as well, especially when you consider they were 1-5 just a month ago.
Player of the game: Outside linebacker Justin Houston recorded a team-high two sacks and had a team-high four quarterback hits. He was the best player on a defense that controlled the day.
Reason to hope: Since 1990, 16 teams have gone on to make the playoffs with a 4-5 record after nine games. The Chiefs’ final five opponents this year — two of whom they play twice — have a combined record of 15-31.
Reason to mope: The offense’s tendency to settle for field goals is a concern. That can’t continue if the Chiefs are going to accomplish all they hope to this season.
Looking ahead: The Chiefs face the Chargers, 2-7, who are coming off a bye week. Philip Rivers is as dangerous as ever, but the Chargers have big-time concerns on their offensive line. This is a game the Chiefs must win if they want to prove they’re for real.
Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org