Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes demonstrated a new ability — to come back and win a game after being down two scores in the fourth quarter — as the Chiefs defeat the Denver Broncos 27-23 in Denver, extending their record to 4-0.
The Broncos wasted no time on their opening drive from their own 25, moving smartly down the field on three consecutive completions for solid gains by quarterback Case Keenum. But on second down at the Chiefs 29-yard line, Dee Ford sacked Keenum, and the Broncos were unable to convert on third down. With a 42-yard field goal by Brandon McManus, Denver took the lead at 3-0.
On their opening possession, the Chiefs reeled off a couple of short passes from Mahomes. On the second one, Tyreek Hill actually caught the ball past the first down marker, but juked to avoid a tackle, and the ball was marked short. Kareem Hunt met a wall of Broncos on third down, and at their own 34, the Chiefs opted to go for it on fourth down and inches. This time, Hunt converted easily, and the drive stayed alive.
After a Broncos face mask penalty, Hunt broke free on a 27-yard pass reception, putting the Chiefs in the red zone. On the next play, Mahomes mishandled the shotgun snap, but managed to pick up the loose ball and make it to the line of scrimmage. After a short completion to Hill, the Broncos knocked away the third down pass to Sammy Watkins, and the Chiefs had to settle for a 33-yard Harrison Butker field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
It was the first time this season that the Chiefs offense did not score a touchdown on its opening drive.
After a touchback, the Broncos went three and out after Justin Houston sacked Keenum for a seven yard loss on second down. Then Hill whipped off a 37 yard return on Marquette King’s punt, putting the Chiefs in business at the Denver 41.
After three incompletions from Mahomes — the last two under big pressure from the Broncos — the Chiefs were also forced to punt. Dustin Colquitt’s punt was right on the money, bouncing high in the air just short of the goal line. Marcus Kemp made an athletic play to tip the bounce away from the end zone, but the ball didn’t quite make it out, giving the Broncos a touchback.
The Broncos went to work, getting decent gains on a mix of runs and passes until the drive stalled at the Chiefs 48, forcing another punt. King expertly punted the ball to Hill right on the sideline at the Chiefs 11, and Hunt was immediately pushed out of bounds.
The Chiefs settled down on their next drive, working up a mix of runs and passes. Then Hunt danced around the edge on second and 10, broke into the Denver secondary and sprinted down the sideline for a 45-yard gain. After converting a third and four with an 11-yard completion to Demarcus Robinson, Mahomes scrambled left and saw daylight, scoring easily on his first career rushing touchdown, pushing the Chiefs to a 10-3 lead.
After starting at their own 22, the Broncos notched the first big passing play of the game on the second play of the drive, when Keenum hit Courtland Sutton with a beautifully thrown deep pass that was good for 42 yards. Two plays later, the Chiefs had Royce Freeman bottled up behind the line on third and one, but Freeman found a way to slip through and broke multiple tackles on his way to a 14-yard rushing touchdown, evening the score at 10.
Starting at their 25 with 6:37 left in the half, the Chiefs continued to rely on the short game, mixing Hunt rushes with short passes, but found themselves in a hole after Robinson was flagged for a face mask penalty. Mahomes couldn’t connect on successive plays, and the Chiefs had to punt.
Getting the ball at their own 24 with just over two minutes remaining, Keenum completed three straight passes, gaining 37 yards and moving his team well into Chiefs territory. Then after an apparent first down catch by Sutton, the ball spot was changed after a booth review, bringing up fourth and one at the Chiefs 24. Rather than try a field goal, the Broncos gambled and converted with a short pass to Demaryius Thomas. But the Chiefs defense then held, forcing a McManus field goal as time expired, sending the teams to the locker room with the Broncos leading 13-10.
Starting the second half at his own 25-yard line, Mahomes immediately got into trouble after a poor throw to Kelce and a short pass to Conley, bringing up third and nine. But then Mahomes escaped pressure and found Demetrius Harris for a 24-yard gain, and De’Anthony Thomas snagged a short pass that he turned into a 15-yard play, putting the Chiefs into Broncos territory. Then after a false start was called on Eric Fisher, the Chiefs were facing third and 11 at the 32, and Mahomes — under pressure — scrambled free and unloaded a pass right at the line scrimmage, finding Travis Kelce for a 29 yard completion, which was Kelce’s first of the game.
But even with first and goal at the three, the Chiefs couldn’t find their way into the end zone, and had to settle for a Butker chip shot to tie the game — again — at 13.
After Phillip Lindsay returned the ensuing kickoff to their the Denver 32, Keenum tried a deep pass to Jeff Heuerman, but Eric Murray — with his back to the ball — made his first career interception, stealing the ball from Heuerman’s hands.
Starting at their own 43 after the interception, the Chiefs stalled — even after 13 yard gains from a Hunt run and a Kelce reception — after another false start called on Fisher and a holding penalty assessed on Cam Erving. The penalties pushed the Chiefs out of field goal range, and they had to punt.
Starting at their own 25 after a touchback, Denver moved up the field with an end around to Emmanuel Sanders that went for 18 yards, another to Lindsay good for 18, and a 17-yard reception to Matt LaCosse. Then Keenum tried another deep pass to Sutton, but Orlando Scandrick was called for pass interference, setting the Broncos up with a first and goal at the five yard line. Two plays later, Lindsay bulled through the Chiefs line for a touchdown that gave the Broncos a 20-13 lead.
After the Chiefs went three and out on their next possession, the Broncos spent just over two minutes to put another field goal on the board, in a six-play drive featuring a 32-yard pass to Janovich, extending their lead to 23-13.
Entering unfamiliar territory — that is, facing a two-score deficit — Mahomes went to work on the Chiefs 25, moving the team 75 yards on 12 plays, overcoming two 10-yard offensive penalties, converting a fourth and one with a 22 yard pass to Hunt, and completing three passes to Kelce for 23 yards, including a seven yard touchdown pass that narrowed the Broncos lead to 23-20 with 6:27 remaining in the game.
The Chiefs forced a three and out on the next series, getting the ball back on their own 40 with 4:35 — and two timeouts — remaining. After Hill was dropped for a loss to bring up third and five, Mahomes had to scramble when the Broncos brought pressure. Von Miller managed to get a hand on Mahomes, but not before he got off an amazing left-handed six yard throw to Hill to gain a first down.
Successive penalties against the Chiefs put them at second down and 30 at their own 31, and Mahomes hit Robinson for a 23-yard gain, followed by a 35-yard pass to Harris that put the Chiefs at the Denver one yard line as the two minute warning sounded.
The Broncos jumped offsides on the next play, and Mahomes took a free shot to Kelce in the end zone, but all Kelce got out of it was being shaken up on the play as he was pushed out of bounds making the catch. Then the Chiefs tried a handoff to Hunt that gained two, and Kelce returned to the field. On the next play, the Chiefs took 27-23 lead as Dr. Duvernay-Tardif led Hunt into the end zone.
Just 1:39 remained on the clock as the Broncos started their last drive on their own 25. Armani Watts notched a sack on a safety blitz on the first play from scrimmage, and Denver called its last time out. On fourth and 11, Keenum managed to find Sanders for a first down, and then completed a 36-yard pass to Heuerman, putting the Broncos at the Chiefs 28. After an incompletion, Kendall Fuller nearly intercepted a pass to Thomas. Keenum tried Thomas again, but overthrew him, bringing up fourth down and 10 — still at the 28 — with :22 remaining.
The Broncos had one trick up their sleeve. They tried to start a hook and ladder play with a throw to Sutton, but the pass was ruled incomplete, sealing the 27-23 victory for the Chiefs.
In his first-ever prime-time NFL game, Patrick Mahomes was 28 for 45 for 304 yards, a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions. That was good for a passer rating of just 89.5 on the day. He was sacked once, and pressured repeatedly.
For the Broncos, Case Keenum completed 19 passes on 27 attempts for 197 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception. That adds up to a passer rating of 75.7. The Chiefs sacked him four times.
Travis Kelce led Chiefs receivers with 78 yards and a touchdown on seven catches — after being targeted five times without a reception. Demetrius Harris had a pair of catches for 59 yards, and Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill both finished the game with 54 yards receiving. Hunt rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. The Chiefs combined for 143 yards rushing, and allowed the Broncos 159 yards rushing — led by Phillip Lindsay, who had 69 yards on 12 carries.
Sammy Watkins left the game in the second quarter, and was evaluated in the locker room for a hamstring injury. He was ruled out before halftime. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were both shaken up on plays, but returned to the game.
The Chiefs are headed home, but face a short week before playing the Jacksonville Jaguars — arguably the toughest opponent the team has yet faced in 2018 — at noon this Sunday.