Close at halftime, but KC Chiefs’ dominance over Denver continues: what we learned

·6 min read

The Chiefs’ domination of the Denver Broncos lives on.

The Chiefs’ defense suffocated the Broncos’ offense, and their offense did just enough to secure a 22-9 win Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The victory extended the Chiefs’ winning streak to five games, and they’ve now won 12 straight matchups against the Broncos dating to the 2015 regular season.

While Denver’s totaled 404 yards, including 154 on the ground, the Chiefs’ defense won the night in the showdown of AFC West rivals.

“Defense, again, had a nice game here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I mean, it was beautiful to watch.”

Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater found the going tough, completing just 22 of 40 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, including a 75-yard pick-6 by safety Daniel Sorensen. Safety Juan Thornhill recorded the Chiefs’ other interception.

The Chiefs punctuated their defensive performance by withstanding a 20-play drive by Denver that consumed 11 minutes, 7 seconds in the second quarter but produced no points. The Broncos’ lengthy drive ended on a failed fourth-down attempt.

“The pressure we put on Teddy, and then the way we were able to sustain against the run game, they’re obviously a good football team,” Reid said.

Denver’s nine points marked the fifth straight game in which the Chiefs’ defense limited an opponent to 17 or fewer points. Bridgewater’s touchdown pass in the fourth quarter was the first touchdown allowed by the Chiefs since the third quarter of their Week 10 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Chiefs’ defense didn’t go it alone Sunday night, though. Their special teams helped pick up the slack.

Wide receiver/gunner Byron Pringle recovered a muffed punt in the third quarter, and kicker Harrison Butker booted three field goals, including one from 56 yards. Butker now has five of 50-plus yards this season to set a new team record for the most from 50-plus in a season.

“The turnovers from the defensive side, we ended up with nine points off of that,” Reid said.

With the win, the Chiefs improved to 8-4 and remain atop the AFC West.

OFFENSIVE WOES

Whatever cure may exist for the Chiefs’ inconsistent offense will need to wait, because their Week 12 bye solved nothing.

The Chiefs started game with a bang behind a 12-play, 82-yard drive, which quarterback Patrick Mahomes capped with a 10-yard touchdown run.

But after that possession, the Chiefs’ scoring came from Butker’s field goals and Sorensen’s interception returned for a touchdown.

“Offensively, we did some good things, and then we had probably too many drops and penalties in there,” Reid said. “Listen, that’s my responsibility. I’ll get that straightened out.”

Mahomes completed 15 of 29 passes for 184 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, his 12th this season, for a 57.3 passer rating. The pick came after Mahomes’ pass deflected off wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s hands and into the arms of Broncos rookie cornerback Pat Surtain.

“We just didn’t execute at certain positions,” Mahomes said. “There were throws I didn’t make, there were plays that didn’t get made, and there were penalties at inopportune times. We had stuff there, we had plays that were open. We thought we did a good job of getting stuff going and we just didn’t finish drives.”

Sunday marked the seventh time this season that Mahomes, who has a career 105.7 passer rating, failed to top 91.0. And Sunday’s marked a career-low. Mahomes’ previous low came in Week 7, when he posted a 62.3 mark.

Hill finished the game with two catches for 22 yards on two targets. Running back Darrel Williams led the team in receiving with three catches for 60 yards.

The Chiefs were penalized seven times, four from the offense, for 60 yards in the game.

INGRAM GETS THE START

Melvin Ingram is now a starter.

Ingram opened the game with the first-team defense at left defensive end, a spot previously manned by Chris Jones before the Chiefs traded for Ingram in early November.

The veteran defensive end/outside linebacker made an impact on the Chiefs’ first defensive series, making a tackle in the backfield and then splitting a sack with linebacker Willie Gay Jr.

With Ingram at defensive end, Jones moved back to defensive tackle next to Jarran Reed. The move is likely permanent as long as Ingram is starting. Ingram also alternated lining up at left and right defensive end spot with Frank Clark.

“We look at him as if he’s a starter,” Reid said of Ingram. “We rotate all those guys, so it was good to get him in there with some extended snaps. He played his tail off. He did a nice job. I thought the whole front did a nice job.”

Ingram had three tackles, the half-sack and two quarterback hits.

CONSERVATIVE CALLS

After the Chiefs’ defense turned back the Broncos’ 20-play, 11-minute drive, Reid’s offense took over on downs at its own 9-yard line with 1:12 left in the first half.

That’s plenty of time to get into field-goal range when Mahomes is under center, but Reid took a safe route by calling two straight runs by Darrel Williams. They gained 2 yards before Mahomes threw incomplete on third down.

Perhaps field position factored into the decision, but former Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz was one of many who tweeted expressions of disbelief.

“Little surprised they’re not trying to score,” Schwartz posted on social media. “Odd.”

Strange, indeed.

REDEMPTION SUNDAY

Sorensen became an easy target for criticism during the Chiefs’ 3-4 start. The veteran safety’s early struggles essentially mirrored those of the entire team.

But like the goodwill generated by the Chiefs’ turnaround to eight wins, all might be forgiven after Sorensen’s big game: pick-6, a tackle and a pass defensed.

He won’t return to the starting lineup anytime soon unless Thornhill or Tyrann Matheiu get hurt, but Sorensen was due for a good evening, and he got it on Sunday.

“It was good to see Dan,” Reid said. “Dan, a few weeks ago, I was sitting in here and everybody wanted him gone. This is what is so great about this game. I mean, all of a sudden he’s back and performing these last two games.”

INJURIES

Chiefs cornerback Chris Lammons suffered an ankle injury in the first half and did not return to the game.

INACTIVES

Right tackle Lucas Niang (ribs), cornerback Rashad Fenton (knee), offensive lineman Kyle Long and rookie quarterback Shane Buechele were not active.

UP NEXT

The Chiefs play host to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 14 at Arrowhead Stadium.

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