Final Score: Kansas City Chiefs 23, Denver Broncos 3
The Chiefs offense looked solid moving the ball, but once again struggled a bit inside the red zone. It didn’t matter, though, as the defense held the Broncos out of the end zone all day, doing its part in securing the big win.
Patrick Mahomes looked comfortable in the pocket during the first drive, allowing him to carve up the Broncos secondary. Passes to Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson moved the chains before Mahomes dialed up a 41-yard strike to Tyreek Hill for a touchdown.
After driving down the field for a field goal in the second drive, Mahomes made magic in the third. A second-and-18 situation became a first down with chunk plays to Watkins on consecutive plays — although the Chiefs had to settle for yet another field goal after Mahomes struggled to find an open man in the red zone. Mahomes drove the field easily late in the first half, repeatedly finding Kelce open to pick up chunk plays down the field.
Mahomes came out of halftime on fire, going 7/7 for 70 yards for a touchdown and a two-point conversion. His signature play came on the conversion, ducking several rushers, stepping out of a blitzing linebacker’s grasp and the dealing the pass to Watkins in the end zone before taking a hit. The next drive saw Mahomes continue to hit Kelce for big gains, then hit a 30-yard bomb deep to tight end Blake Bell. But then he then tried to force a pass to Hill at the goal line that was intercepted.
LeSean McCoy got the early work at running back, making a fantastic cut on Jeremiah Attaochu during a 10-yard gain on the second drive. Darwin Thompson got work in the second quarter, picking up 17 yards on consecutive plays. He continued to get the lion’s share of the work — and looked good between the tackles. Spencer Ware showed off his pass protection skills on a Mahdomes bootleg, leveling a defensive end with a cut block. Ware had another fantastic block on the second touchdown drive. He closed out the game with some tough yardage, killing the clock to put the win away.
In the early going, both Watkins and Robinson created yards after the catch, making Broncos defenders miss. Their ability to change direction — coupled with an icy field — allowed them to get some tough extra yardage. On the first drive, Hill sold a post route — getting the safety to open his hips — then shook back to the corner over Chris Harris Jr. for a touchdown. Hill also made a great scooping catch that was unsuccessfully challenged at the start the second half — and then was the recipient on a sprint-out for the Chiefs’ second touchdown. Mecole Hardman got in the mix during the second drive, converting a third-and-long by running the best out route we’ve seen him run in a Chiefs uniform.
An 11-yard gain on an early third down sent Travis Kelce over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. That reception broke the NFL record for consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
Kelce continued to get volume targets as the first half continued — especially during the Chiefs’ two-minute drive to end the first half. He continued racking up yardage in the second half by taking advantage of matchups against linebackers and slower safeties in the middle of the field.
The offensive line looked strong early in the game, giving Mahomes more time than usual to dissect the Denver defense. The second drive stalled out near the goal line after a sack; Mahomes had stepped out of the pocket and tried to scramble with no players open. Andrew Wylie then allowed a sack on the first play of the third drive, getting beaten by Shelby Harris. Harris and Von Miller once again showed up late in the first half, beating Wylie and Mitchell Schwartz to help kill off the Chiefs’ final first-half drive. On the final drive of the game, an injury to Wylie forced Stefan Wisniewski into action.
Despite missing most of the week with an illness, Frank Clark still looked strong. In the second drive, he came up with a big run stuff before flushing Drew Lock out of the pocket. Clark was forced into greater action as the game went along — and he set a good edge. He notched pressures throughout the second half — particularly on two fourth-down plays, forcing Drew Lock to make poor throws.
Alex Okafor also looked spry, dropping into coverage to take away an early slant. He got to pin his ears back on a third-and-5, looping around the right tackle untouched for a sack. It proved to be costly, though; Okafor sustained a chest injury and was ruled out of the game. Demone Harris got reps in his absence, coming up with a major run stuff and a pressure. Like Okafor, he sometimes dropped into coverage to take away the flats. Harris had another tackle for loss to force a late drive to stall.
Chris Jones showed quickness and agility throughout the first half — not only making Lock uncomfortable, but making him unable to step up into the pocket. Late in the game, Jones ratcheted up the pressure, forcing a poor throw on third-and-long. Mike Pennel was a steady presence in the run game, coming up with a tackle for loss and anchoring well against double teams.
Damien Wilson was active early, chasing down Philip LIndsay on an early run and coming up with a big second down stop. Wilson also split out wide against Lindsay in an empty set, which is a little different than the way we have been seeing the Chiefs play empty sets. Wilson continued to show up in coverage, laying a hit along the sideline to force an incompletion. Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens got involved in the run game during the Broncos’ fourth drive, working with Pennel and Harris to come up with tackles for loss.
At the beginning. Chiefs cornerbacks were not tested often, offering good coverage on the outside. The first real test came on a fourth-and-1 just before the first half two-minute warning. Charvarius Ward was caught peeking into the backfield on the play action, which allowed Noah Fant to leak out for a 43-yard gain. Ward did well to chase him down and prevent the touchdown. A ticky-tack holding penalty against Ward wiped a fourth down interception off the books. Bashaud Breeland added a holding penalty to the ledger, extending a short field drive from the Broncos. He had an opportunity to return a pick-six from the Denver one-yard line, but dropped the ball after it was deflected.
Tyrann Mathieu made his presence known immediately, blitzing on an early pass and chasing Drew Lock through the pocket, out the back side and then bringing him down for a sack. Just before the first half, Mathieu erased a Denver touchdown, ripping the ball out of Courtland Sutton’s hands in the end zone. Mathieu was a blanket for most of the day, coming up with yet another pass breakup on a third down in the third quarter. A third down stop for no gain led to an interception on consecutive plays from Mathieu. Another fantastic breakup from Mathieu with Denver driving late in the game forced a third-and-long.
Early on, Daniel Sorensen got a lot of work as Spagnuolo countered 11 personnel (with Noah Fant) with a dime defense. Sorensen himself had a great deflection late in the fourth quarter, almost setting up another interception. Juan Thornhill and Ward collided during the third drive of the game, leaving Thornhill injured on the ground. He returned during the next drive of the game. After Mathieu’s interception was wiped out with a penalty, Thornhill came up with his own in the end zone to end a potential Broncos touchdown drive. A coverage play on fourth down ended the Broncos’ final last-gasp effort in Chiefs territory.