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Chiefs-Broncos rapid reaction: An unusual night of Sunday football

The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 22-16 on Sunday Night Football.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone else feel a little strange after that one?

The Kansas City Chiefs’ day reportedly started with a 3:30 a.m. wakeup call. After having to start their backup running back due to the starter losing too much weight, the Chiefs did not challenge what was likely to be a touchdown, the Arrowhead Stadium clock froze and referees found a way to call a phantom delay of game (according to the broadcast clock).

Division games are not supposed to be easy wins — something that could easily be forgotten when a team has one loss during the past 393 days. When that many strange things happen, I imagine the division games can grow to be even more difficult a challenge.

The Chiefs expected this entering the season, but as the world champions, they have gotten 12 games (well, thinking about the New York Jets’ game, maybe 11) of opposing teams’ absolute best efforts. Sunday night was no different, with Vic Fangio’s defense finding a way to stifle the Chiefs offense en route to a halftime lead — and a final chance at an upset with the ball in Drew Lock’s hands.

The Chiefs have had some close calls lately, winning their last four games by a total of 15 points. During the first two games of that stretch, the defense was a problem — but in the last two, the Chiefs were a combined 0 for 7 in the red zone.

Between offense and defense, I think many of us would agree that if there was a side of the ball that could cost the Chiefs a championship, it’s likely to be the defense. I trust Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy, Patrick Mahomes and company to use the last four weeks of the season to find better success when games are close.

The defense, at least in my opinion, continues to make small strides. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is mixing up looks, leading to quarterback discomfort, confusion and interceptions. Tyrann Mathieu’s pair of picks during Sunday’s game gives me confidence that we may indeed get the second-half version of the safety we saw last year, when he played like one of the league’s top defenders. Defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Chris Jones were not yet dominant, but each had a quarterback hit and batted down a pass.

If I were to give out a game ball out (something I don’t get to do), I would give it to Harrison Butker, who gave us cause for great concern through a few weeks of the season. On Sunday night — a very unusual night — he was perfect when the Chiefs needed him to be perfect. And his final kick — the 48-yarder — curbed much of Denver’s momentum on what could be properly described as a rather... imperfect... day.