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Chiefs-Broncos rapid reaction: a strangely bittersweet domination

Having come off a Super Bowl victory with hopes of getting back, the team still has work to do despite blowing out the Broncos.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

xGiven the current state of the Kansas City Chiefs organization and its now-yearly lofty goals, Sunday’s win is probably as bittersweet as it gets: complete and utter domination of the scoreboard, yet room to grow in key areas of the game.

First, the good that comes to mind (and there is a lot of it).

  • No injuries out of the game — always one of the most important points.
  • Wide receiver Mecole Hardman surfaced for some key plays at the very beginning and did enough with two receptions to be the Chiefs’ leading receiver by game’s end.
  • Touchdowns in every facet of the game — including two from former undrafted free agents in kick returner Byron Pringle and safety Daniel Sorensen, as well as a forced fumble from another undrafted free agent: defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton.
  • Relentless pressure of quarterback Drew Lock, leading to three sacks and two picks.
  • A positive first (albeit short) glimpse of “Thunder and Lightning,” as coined by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell combined for 85 yards on 14 carries, good for six yards per rushing attempt.
  • The highlight plays of Edwards-Helaire and Tyreek Hill breaking tackles and fighting to score the offense’s two touchdowns were fun to watch.
  • Backup quarterback Chad Henne recorded his first touchdown since 2014.

With the good, there were also problems — so much so that if the Chiefs were playing someone other than the Broncos — like the Tennessee Titans or Pittsburgh Steelers — they might not have been victorious on Sunday.

  • The Chiefs offense was 0 for 8 on third down and scored touchdowns 3 of 6 times in the red zone.
  • There were miscues in protection that left Mahomes vulnerable to taking shots too often — and he had a hard time breaking through in the second half.
  • It is difficult to believe the team would miss Blake Bell as much as it does, but Nick Keizer made another mistake after his key drop against the Raiders: a fumble that the Broncos turned into a touchdown.
  • Kicker Harrison Butker missed his fifth extra point in seven games. That hasn’t cost the Chiefs yet, but they will play better teams than the Broncos after the bye week.
  • No answer for Phillip Lindsay, who was running all over the Chiefs prior to suffering a concussion after a devastating hit by Sorensen. The Broncos likely would not have won, anyway, but the game changed when Lindsay had to sub out for Melvin Gordon.

The Chiefs are a different team than when Mahomes first took the helm in 2018, when it had to rely on the offense to compete for a potential conference crown. 2020’s team is much more complete, which allows the Chiefs to have a frustrating day offensively and still win in dominating fashion.

Mahomes and Andy Reid both mentioned Broncos head coach Vic Fangio’s sharp defensive game plan in their post-game press conferences; it’s another piece of a trend we have seen this season. For the first time in Mahomes’ (still) early career, defenses are planning creatively enough to stifle him.

But unlike in 2018, he doesn’t have to do it all — and Sunday was proof. The team being strong in so many areas buys time for the offense to get back to being that well-oiled machine that can score in a flash.