Report card: Chiefs balance shortcomings with successes to beat Broncos

Key plays, stats and grades from the Chiefs’ 30-23 win against the Denver Broncos on on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

The recap

Player of the game: Sammy Watkins caught eight passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Reason to hope: This was Denver’s second time around against the Chiefs’ high-powered offense, and the Broncos gave up more points than they did in the first meeting.

Reason to mope: The Chiefs’ secondary gave up several big plays against a quarterback rated in the bottom tier of NFL starters. It didn’t ultimately hurt them but gives reason for concern against top-flight passers.

Looking ahead: The Chiefs hit the road after back-to-back games at Arrowhead Stadium, playing the Browns in Cleveland next Sunday.

Report card

Rushing offense: D. The Chiefs hardly went to the traditional running game, though Kareem Hunt certainly had an impact out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. The highlight came on a Mahomes shovel pass to Hunt: a nice catch-and-run for a touchdown. The Chiefs rushed for 49 yards total on 18 carries.

Passing offense: B. The Broncos succeeded in applying pressure to Mahomes early and keeping the Chiefs’ offense out of sync at the start of the game. However, when the Chiefs got on track, they took advantage of mismatches and let Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce carve through the Broncos’ defense. Watkins registered his second 100-yard receiving game of the season, while Kelce had six catched for 79 yards and a touchdown. Hunt also had that touchdown catch on a shovel pass.

Rushing defense: D. The Broncos, who entered the day ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry, clearly had a game plan to play power football and run at the Chiefs. They rushed for 189 yards, and they continued to move the ball steadily on the ground. Philip Lindsay rushed for 95 yards on 18 carries and Devontae Booker gained 78 on the ground on nine carries. They gained an average of 6.3 yards per carry in the game.

Passing defense: C. Miscommunications and lapses in coverage before halftime helped the Broncos remain within striking distance of the lead despite the Chiefs’ offense’s better rhythm in the second quarter. They also gave up a big pass play of 49 yards to set up the game’s first score. The pass rush also came up with some big plays, including sacks by Dee Ford (who also forced a fumble), Chris Jones and Breeland Speaks. They collected five sacks on the day.

Special teams: B-. Tremon Smith and the kick return unit had a solid day and looked close to breaking a big return once or twice. They also had return yards wiped away on a penalty. A missed extra-point kick is not what any team wants to see, but the fact that Harrison Butker missed one Sunday didn’t prove critical in the outcome. Coverage teams were solid. Punter Dustin Colquitt dropped three punts inside the 20-yard line and boomed a long of 55 yards.

Coaching: B-. The Chiefs’ offense got rolling much sooner than in their first meeting with the Broncos. They found and created matchups in the passing game and seemed to take advantage of those opportunities. Chiefs coach Andy Reid made some good play calls in crucial moments, such as the fourth-down shovel pass to Hunt. Defensively, the Chiefs integrated more new players into the mix due to injuries and were able to keep create a pair of turnovers. On the down side, they also logged another game with 50 yards or more of penalties.

Lynn Worthy

Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.