Red Zone

Chiefs’ offense sputters again in loss to Broncos

Solutions for what ails their struggling offense continue to elude the Chiefs, but center Ryan Lilja had a great answer when asked where they would get their points over the season’s final five games.

“Hopefully not from the field-goal kicker,’’ Lilja said.

But if not for field goals from Ryan Succop, the offense would have ground to a complete stop a long time ago. They were held without a touchdown for the second straight game in Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium and haven’t found the end zone since Jamaal Charles’ 12-yard scoring run in the first quarter against the Steelers three weeks ago.

Since then, their end zone has been an incredibly lonely place. The inability to score another touchdown cost them in Pittsburgh, when they lost in overtime.

It cost them again Sunday, when they held the high-scoring Broncos to a season-low 17 points.

That part is easy to figure out. How to actually score a touchdown is far more problematic. But they now have only field goals from their offense in 10 full quarters and parts of two others with Brady Quinn as their quarterback.

A fear of getting into a scoring battle with Peyton Manning and the Broncos can explain at least part of the sluggishness Sunday. The Chiefs were intentionally deliberate early in the game in an effort to keep the ball away from the Broncos.

“I think we were able to keep Peyton on the bench for a good amount of time like we wanted to,’’ Quinn said. “But in the end, we didn’t make those plays that we were talking about.’’

Later in the game, the Chiefs weren’t holding back but still came up short. Quinn missed in his last 10 pass attempts and was 0 for 9 in the fourth quarter.

“It starts here and I fully take responsibility for not being able to put us in position, whether it’s certain throws or decisions here or there (and) I fully take (blame) for us not making plays and getting touchdowns instead of field goals,’’ Quinn said.

Their best scoring chances came in the first quarter, when twice the Chiefs were inside the Denver 20. Yet coach Romeo Crennel had Succop try field goal attempts both times, including on a fourth and 2 from the Denver 4 when a touchdown might have tipped the game in Kansas City’s direction.

“How do you know that at that point in the game?’’ Crennel said. “I took the points on the board because I thought points on the board were important.’’

But it was obvious to many others that scoring only field goals against the Broncos would be futile.

“I think we all knew in the first half that three points isn’t going to get you very far against this team, knowing what their offense is capable of. It changed the game for us,’’ Lilja said.

“I think we’ve got the right group of guys. We’ve just got to get into the end zone. We’ve got to score touchdowns against the Broncos.’’

The closest the Chiefs came to a touchdown happened on a third down before one of the field goals. Quinn handed to Peyton Hillis, who attempted a throw back to Quinn, whom the Broncos lost in coverage. But Hillis’ pass was horribly off target and the Chiefs had to settle for the three points.

“We were just trying to catch them sleeping, maybe,’’ Quinn said. “I’m a quarterback so I’m always like, ‘Man, if the ball was a little bit closer I could have caught it and scored a touchdown,’ but I don’t know if that’s the case.’’

In any case, the Chiefs came away with just three points on that trip. Points might not be as important in next Sunday’s game against Carolina at Arrowhead Stadium. The Panthers are, like the Chiefs, one of the league’s lowest scoring teams.

But unless they find the end zone, the Chiefs are probably destined for another defeat.

“We’ve got to find a way to be better (inside the opponent’s 20-yard line),’’ tackle Eric Winston said. “If you don’t come up with touchdowns there, it gives the other side a little bit of a boost.’’