Five things that stood out about the Chiefs’ ugly loss to the Denver Broncos

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The Broncos have finally taken down Patrick Mahomes.

Actually, the Chiefs did a good enough job of that on their own.

For just the second time in the Mahomes era, they turned the ball over five times — five! — in a 24-9 loss in Denver.

And that was only half the story. The offense stunk. The receivers were worse. The game probably turned most on a special teams gaffe.

What’s startling is that the Broncos, owners of a 3-5 record, didn’t even play all that well and still broke their 16-game losing streak against the Chiefs.

Where to start? Here are five observations from immediately after the game:

1. The red zone. Again.

A familiar topic.

Especially against this opponent.

Remember? Of course you do. The Chiefs made five trips to the red zone 18 days ago against the Broncos and got all of one touchdown from it.

Heck, they would’ve killed for that kind of success rate Sunday. Because, somehow, the encore was even worse. The Chiefs advanced inside the 20-yard line three times Sunday, all in the first half, and they had six points to show for it.

It’s a maddening way to see a game unfold — like a baseball team that gets out to lead after lead, only to have the back end of the bullpen blow it.

You know what’s worse? Not reaching the red zone at all, which is how the second half developed for KC.

Still, while we tend to look at the end of games for the decisive moments, the Chiefs elected for a field goal at the 4-yard line, then later kicked another field goal before Mahomes fumbled the third chance. That played as much of a factor as anything.

2. The punt return unit

A week ago, on recalling the motivation behind his 50-yard punt return, Mecole Hardman mentioned that he made a mistake in letting the previous one sail over his head.

Come to think of it: Maybe he had the right idea on that first one all along.

With the margin still at 14-9 in the fourth quarter, Hardman muffed a punt at his own 5-yard-line that gifted the Broncos seven points and shut the door on any chances of a comeback.

This isn’t hard: The Chiefs have to get out of the business of returning punts from inside their own 10-yard-line, and especially inside their own 5-yard line.

The return a week ago is a one-off. It is not a trend-setter. They got a guy who can gain yards. They don’t need to take the chances on returns.

It’s getting more and more difficult to figure out why this is still a thing.

3. The other turnovers

It wasn’t just Hardman.

The Chiefs offense gave the ball away four times Sunday, one worse than the other, but I’m going to highlight one particular type of turnover, because it’s popping up a little too regularly.

Receiver fumbles.

After their best drive of the first half (71 yards), the Chiefs looked like they had developed some rhythm with a 15-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling — except Valdes-Scantling fumbled the ball as he turned up field.

All downhill from there.

That’s the third time this season the Chiefs have fumbled after a reception — Justin Watson in Week 2 and tight end Blake Bell a week ago.

That puts the group on pace for six fumbles this season which, for context, is more than they’ve had in any season in the Andy Reid era — or even the decade that preceded it.

It’s easy to say that, hey, maybe it’s a good idea to protect the ball. But when you have a perennial top-five offense, those things are even more detrimental and should be even more of an emphasis.

4. Where is Skyy Moore?

At some point, we all need to acknowledge that Skyy Moore Development Process has limited signs of real maturation.

If any.

And, hey, I’m on that list and maybe even near the top of that list. Moore impressed during training camp — enough that I anticipated he’d have a regular role in the offense.

He has.

But the production hasn’t changed. Maybe the role should.

Moore dropped a beautifully thrown ball in the end zone that could have kept the Chiefs alive in the fourth quarter — a fourth-down drop, no less. But more troubling is a combination of a failure to get open and what’s a clear lack of trust from the quarterback to throw him open.

Moore had just one catch for 8 yards Sunday. He has 14 catches all season, despite ranking second on the team in receiver snaps.

5. The long-term play

The Chiefs have had these kinds of nights before — yes, even during the Mahomes era.

They stunk against Indianapolis a year ago. They were worse a year earlier in Tennessee.

There’s no silver lining from a game in which you didn’t reach the end zones against one of the worst defenses in the league. But let’s hold off on any drastic conclusions on what it means for where the Chiefs will finish the season.

Things to clean up? That’s putting it mildly.

Insurmountable? Hardly.