The Kansas City Chiefs slipped by the Denver Broncos 34-28 in a game with no business being that close. Kansas City was up 27-0 early in the second quarter, and it seemed like they would be putting this game away early. That lead was entirely too big for them to be comfortable, so the Chiefs fell back into their wearily familiar pattern of letting their opponent back into the game, and the Broncos were more than happy to oblige.
Breakdown Of The Chiefs’ Performance
I wrote last week that the Chiefs would need to bring a better effort than they did against the Bengals if they were going to win today, and all seemed well enough for the first quarter and a half. The first two drives stalled out on the Broncos’ side of the field, but Butker still managed to hit two field goals for the first scores of the game. On the Chiefs’ third drive, Mahomes started to work some magic.
There are not enough adjectives to describe Mahomes pic.twitter.com/EGtH3Bwob4 — Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) December 11, 2022
The defense was also showing out. The pass rush sacked Denver quarterback and cringe-king Russell Wilson three times in the first half and held the Broncos to three three-and-outs on their first five drives. The offensively-challenged Broncos could not keep the pressure off of Wilson, and the run game could not get going to help counter the Chiefs’ defensive game plan. The stellar start was capped off by one of the more magnificent pick-sixes you will ever see.
Great play by Willie to not only ID the play-action but to widen his path to cover the Slide route before pressuring the QB. Reaction to the throw and athleticism to make the INT… and the stiff arm 🥲🥲 pic.twitter.com/h01ohCqxG1 — Matt Lane (@Matty_KCSN) December 11, 2022
After going up 27-0 on Willie Gay’s touchdown return, it looked to all the world like it was going to be Henne Time within the next couple of drives. Oh, how wrong we were. After getting the ball back off of another three-and-out, Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw two horrific interceptions on back-to-back drives on his own side of the field with less than three minutes until halftime. These mistakes led Denver to easy touchdown drives to close out the first half. The fact that Denver would be getting the ball first after halftime made these mistakes all the more costly as they would come out with all the momentum.
The Broncos offense, which had averaged less than two touchdowns per game coming into this contest, went on to score on their first drive of the second half for back-to-back-to-back touchdowns to make the score 27-21. That touchdown was completely inexcusable as Marlon Mack was able to run a short screen pass 66 yards through the entire Chiefs secondary that seemed not to be interested at all in tackling. What makes it even more frustrating is that rookie defensive lineman George Karloftis picked up a sack on the play before, thanks to some exceptional coverage by the secondary. The inability of the defense to string plays together was an issue for this entire game.
The Chiefs’ offense came out of halftime almost as rusty as the defense. Their first two drives were both three-and-outs as the offense could not get anything going against the now-fired-up Broncos’ defense. Mahomes was sacked on third down during the first drive and had a fastball brick off the hands of wide receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling on the second drive. That made it five straight drives in which the Chiefs were unable to score after being able to do whatever they wanted in the first half. Every time the Chiefs’ offense was escorted off the field, the crowd noise grew exponentially.
Luckily, the defense was able to stifle the reinvigorated Broncos’ offense on their subsequent two attempts. They nearly gave up a third and 11 conversion on the first drive but were able to stop the Broncos’ ginormous rookie tight end, Greg Dulcich, just short of the line to gain. Darius Harris ended up getting a sack on their second drive the play after he got beat for a first down. That sack was followed up directly by another sack by what seemed like the entire defensive line. This game was a huge step up for the line compared to last week. They were providing consistent pressure and making it uncomfortable for Russell Wilson all day.
Mahomes would finally get the offense rolling at the end of the third quarter. It started with a max-effort play from Travis Kelce to pick up the first down. Mahomes would march the Chiefs 69 yards in nine plays, mainly highlighting Jerrick “Jet” McKinnon as they had done much of the afternoon. Mahomes was visibly more patient in the pocket During this drive and took what the defense was giving him. When it got to third and goal from the Broncos’ four-yard line, it was time for Mahomes to orchestrate.
That touchdown for Juju was his first since October 23rd against the San Francisco 49ers and put the Chiefs up 34-21. It felt like that would be the score to put the Broncos out of their misery, but they were not entirely done yet. Their offense would march down the field, thanks mainly to a 40-yard defensive pass interference penalty on rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie on a fourth and four. Russell Wilson underthrew his wide receiver Jerry Jeudy by a mile, but McDuffie ran into him trying to get back to the ball.
A few plays later, Wilson would take off for a first down on a third and 11 and ended up taking a nasty hit that would knock him out of the game. Enter backup quarterback Brett Rypien. Rypien, who had already played in relief of Wilson, picked up where he left off. He would hit Jeudy for a touchdown on a fourth and goal from seven yards out. It was Jeudy’s third touchdown of the day, cutting the Chiefs’ lead to 34-28.
Both teams would swap three-and-outs on their next drives. The Chiefs ended up with the advantage thanks to a beautiful 61-yard by Tommy Townsend, which pinned the Broncos inside their own five-yard line. When the Chiefs got the ball back after the Broncos punted, it looked like Patrick Mahomes would march down the field and put these guys away for good. There were only seven minutes left in the game, and they were on the Broncos’ 41-yard line, so they were well within striking distance. Unfortunately, Mahomes threw a third awful interception and gave the Broncos even more momentum.
That interception put the Broncos in excellent field position with five and a half minutes to go. They needed a touchdown, and they had the entirety of Mile High Stadium behind them. They are begging for the chance to break their 13-game losing streak. Brett Rypien has five and a half minutes and only 54 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown against their nemesis. With the way the offense had been moving the ball, you could feel that Denver had all of the momentum in the world and was gearing up for the go-ahead score. But this is Denver we are talking about, and there is a reason why they have lost 13 straight to Kansas City.
That pick by L’Jarius Sneed would be the last Denver would see the ball. The Chiefs’ offense would sit on the ball for the rest of the game and bring it to a merciful end.
Even though this was a win, it feels more like a negative than a positive. The Chiefs showed they could blow a team out of the water with their fantastic start. They also showed that they can still be careless and allow teams to claw their way back into games that they should not be. The defense took their lumps, but it was the play of Patrick Mahomes that put them in awful situations. The defense answered the bell when they absolutely needed to, but it really should not have gone down to that. The Chiefs still have an easy schedule the rest of the way, but they are going to need to shore some things up if they are going to go where they want to go.