Here are six winners and three losers from the game.
- Linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland made a big impact. Both looked quicker to fill holes in the running game. Ragland made a great run stuff on the goal line during Denver’s early two-point conversion attempt. But the biggest play they made came as the Chiefs led 13-6 in the second quarter. Hitchens came in on a blitz and stripped Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco. Ragland picked up the fumble and ran into the end zone to extend the lead. On the next drive, Hitchens had a sack that initially looked like another forced fumble. In the fourth quarter, Ragland came in on a blitz and got another sack. The duo finished with a seven tackles, three sacks and two tackles for loss.
- Defensive end Alex Okafor continues to be a great signing from the offseason. He has primarily come from the right side of the offensive formation this year — and he had a mismatch on Thursday night against a backup right tackle. He started early with half a sack on the second drive. On the next possession, he came clean around the edge and brought down Flacco by himself. His final stat line was two sacks, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
- Wide receiver Mecole Hardman was the lone bright spot for the Chiefs offense early. On the initial possession, Hardman made a tough catch on a third-down play and shed a tackle to score a touchdown. Then — on his first punt return attempt — he showed flashes of rookie-year Tyreek Hill with blazing speed to get around the corner and gain 35 yards, setting up the offense inside the red zone. He only had two catches in the game, but made the most of his opportunities.
- Defensive end Frank Clark may have earned the respect of some disillusioned Chiefs fans on Thursday night. After his bad face mask penalty extended Denver’s first drive, he settled in and looked as dominant as usual against the run. On the second drive, he came around the edge to help Okafor bring down Flacco on third down. With halftime coming up, Clark had a big sack to force a long field goal attempt. On the last play of the third quarter, Clark brought Flacco down once more. He also forced a few holding penalties in pass rushing situations. Clark racked up five tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss.
- Backup quarterback Matt Moore put in an admirable effort replacing Mahomes. You could tell the offense was tailored to help him avoid risky plays — and he executed it. He was able to get a few first downs and chew some clock in the second half. Then — with the third quarter winding down — Moore stepped up and made a beautiful throw to wide receiver Tyreek Hill down the right sideline to extend the lead to 27-6. Simply put, Moore played as well as you can expect a backup quarterback to play in that situation.
- Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah continued his impressive season. While Okafor and Clark totaled more sacks, Ogbah got one on the first third down of the second half. In the third quarter, he batted down a pass on back-to-back possessions. He finished with one sack, one tackle for loss and two passes defensed.
- The NFL and Chiefs fans were big losers on Thursday night. On a fourth-down play, quarterback Patrick Mahomes snuck up the middle to gain a first down. It would be his last play of the night. He seemed to have hurt his right knee at the bottom of the pile and walked to the locker room to get X-rays. Mahomes is legitimately the face of the league — so this is not a loss for just the Chiefs and their fans, but for all NFL fans.
- Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has shown some weakness all season, but it was on full display against the Broncos. In the running game, he was pushed back multiple times and allowed a few tackles in the backfield. Early in the second half, he whiffed on a block that would have sprung a screen play. He is one of the highest-paid offensive guards in the NFL and has been a staple for the Chiefs’ offensive line, but he has not played up to his contract this year.
- Cornerback Bashaud Breeland had a few ugly plays that led to big gains for the Broncos. He should be credited for even playing after not making the initial trip for to personal reasons. On the opening drive, a third-down stop was negated when Breeland was flagged for holding — a penalty for which he has been flagged frequently in recent weeks. In the second quarter, he allowed a big pass play down the sideline — even though he appeared to be in a good initial position. It looked like he turned the wrong way — which prevented safety Juan Thornhill from breaking up the pass.