Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s game:
- I believe it is already safe to call Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes elite, and though I realize that is still a subjective take, an objective fact is that Mahomes is officially among elite company after his four touchdowns Sunday make it 26 total on the season. Per NFL Research, four players in history have 26 touchdowns or more through the first eight games of the season: Mahomes, Tom Brady (30, 2007) and Peyton Manning (29, 2013; 26, 2004). Mahomes was 24 of 34 for 303 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception Sunday against the Broncos.
- Wide receiver Sammy Watkins had his best game since joining the Kansas City Chiefs, catching eight passes on nine targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns. It was the fifth multi-touchdown game of Watkins’ career and his first since Week 3 of 2017 as a Los Angeles Ram.
- Tight end Travis Kelce overcame some early drops, including one that would have been for a touchdown, to catch six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Broncos. It was a Kelce’s fourth touchdown of the season. Kelce has recorded at least one reception in 71 straight games, per the Chiefs’ public relations staff.
- Running back Kareem Hunt is making his case to be included in the conversation for the league’s top running back. He may not have the stats of the Rams’ Todd Gurley, but the elusiveness he showcased again on Sunday is special. Hunt had 16 carries for 50 yards and five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown on the day. Hunt quietly has 10 total touchdowns (five rushing, five receiving) on the season.
- Similar to referees, it is usually a good sign when you don’t particularly notice offensive linemen—and I didn’t recall noticing any miscues with Austin Reiter, the third-string center making his second career start on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Another OL note—outside linebacker Von Miller recorded a half-sack Sunday, and former Chief Geoff Schwartz tweeted “Damn ... only took almost five games for Miller to beat Mitch.” The job Mitch Schwartz has consistently done against Miller, one of the best pass rushers in the game, always deserves a spot in the winners’ section.
- The Chiefs defense wasn’t all pretty—the unit gave up 411 yards on Sunday—but the unit had some bright spots. Outside linebacker Dee Ford came into the game with a share of the league lead (36) for hurries, and he reached quarterback Case Keenum on three separate occasions Sunday. On two of the sacks, Ford forced a fumble. Ford now has a team-leading 8.0 sacks on the season.
- Rookie outside linebacker Breeland Speaks also recorded a sack, as did defensive lineman Chris Jones. Speaks and Jones officially tallied two quarterback hits apiece. Kendall Fuller had an interception on a flea-flicker attempt.
- The Broncos’ two-headed running back monster of Phillip Lindsay and Devontae Booker gave the Chiefs run defense problems all game long. Led by Lindsay’s 95 yards, the two combined for 27 carries for 173 yards and a touchdown in the game.
- Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe, per The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala: “They beat us by a total of 10 points. I’m tired of losing, especially in Kansas City. I really hate Kansas City. really hate it. I don’t like coming here. I don’t like anything about them except for Travis (Kelce). Travis is the only one I like over there.” Yikes.
- The Chiefs’ discipline, when it came to taking penalties, was not on display at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. The Chiefs totaled seven penalties for 50 yards, including four false start penalties (at home). Chris Conley had two false start penalties and right guard Andrew Wylie had one on a crucial fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Wylie penalty may have cost the Chiefs three points. Penalties may not have cost the Chiefs the game against the Broncos, but the Chiefs will need to be more disciplined to beat better teams in the league—such as the Los Angeles Rams or New England Patriots.
- Chiefs safety Ron Parker struggled in the first half—giving up a big play to Emmanuel Sanders. He and Orlando Scandrick also gave up a 24-yard touchdown to some guy named Tim Patrick. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs make a move to beef of the secondary before the Tuesday trade deadline.
- I unfortunately don’t think that Vance Joseph will be the head coach of the Denver Broncos the next time the Chiefs see them. Joseph is now 0-4 against Kansas City and 8-16 overall as Denver’s head coach.
- Similarly, I’m not sure Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who had just three catches on seven targets for 30 yards Sunday—makes it through the trade deadline. Thomas is a shadow of his former self and appears to be in need of a change of scenery.
- The other side of Ford’s monster day is that of Broncos left tackle Garrett Boles, who didn’t look like he belonged on the same field as Ford. On the other side of the ball, cornerback Bradley Roby was hardly capable of guarding Watkins.
- The Broncos mentality has been broken by the Chiefs. Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. called this a game with season-changing potential prior to Sunday. Here was his quote after the game: “This was one of the hardest losses that I have ever had in the regular season. You fight so hard and do whatever you can to win and it’s really upsetting.” And the crazy thing is the Chiefs didn’t even play all that well. Great teams find a way to win and that’s what the Chiefs are.
- Safety Eric Berry didn’t suit up for Chiefs-Broncos, meaning he officially missed the first half of the season and should have been on injured reserve instead of taking up a roster spot.