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Final score: Chiefs edge out Broncos, avoid upset with 28-24 win

A underwhelming victory ends the regular season — but still give Kansas City a chance at the one seed.

Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Without being a loss, It’s hard to imagine the Kansas City Chiefs’ regular-season finale could be any more underwhelming. Trailing in a tight game for most of the afternoon, the Chiefs used an 86-yard fumble return by Nick Bolton to escape Week 18 with a 28-24 win over the Denver Broncos.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes finished with 27 completions on 44 attempts for 270 yards and throwing two touchdowns — while also adding 54 yards as a rusher. With Mahomes as the leading rusher, running back Derrick Gore came second — earning 30 yards on seven carries. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman led the pass catchers with eight receptions, 103 yards and a gain of 44 yards to help seal the game in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos won the toss and deferred, receiving the ball to open the game. The first play ended with linebacker Willie Gay Jr. batting down a pass, which led to third-and-5. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy got behind cornerback Charvarius Ward deep, but the ball was barely overthrown for an incompletion.

After a good punt, the Chiefs took over from their own nine-yard line, moving the sticks on third down with an 11-yard scramble by Mahomes. A few plays later, wide receiver Mecole Hardman took a quick pass for 21 yards — then a reception by wide receiver Byron Pringle go them across midfield. Two third-and-1 conversions led the Chiefs into the red zone, where they faced third-and-goal from the three-yard line. Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce wide open in the end zone to cap off a 17-play drive and take an early 7-0 lead.

To answer, Denver quickly went three and out — with the third down ending in Lock throwing the ball away as defensive tackle Jarran Reed nailed him. However, a roughing-the-punter penalty on the ensuing punt extended the Broncos’ drive — which advanced into the red zone with a trick play that ended with a pass completion by wide receiver Courtland Sutton. A few plays later, quarterback Drew Lock scrambled into the end zone to tie the game 7-7.

To start the second quarter, the Chiefs advanced into Denver territory with help from a roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Bradley Chubb. But they stalled on third-and-10 — where Denver’s pass rush overwhelmed the pass protection for a long sack.

From their own 20-yard line, Denver marched down the field easily, facing just one third down on the way to seven more points; Lock scrambled from 23 yards out for the Broncos to take a 14-7 lead.

After a touchback, the Chiefs moved past midfield with good gains by wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and Hardman. A vintage play by Mahomes to scramble and throw to Pringle across his body got them into the red zone. A holding penalty on center Creed Humphrey pushed them back into a third-and-goal from the 16-yard line; an attempt to Hill at the front pylon was nearly picked. The Chiefs settled for a field goal, tightening the score to 14-10.

With roughly two minutes in the first half, the Broncos attempted to get something going — moving closer to midfield after a few positive plays. But they stalled and had to punt the ball away with just under 30 seconds left.

After a few attempts to get the ball into field-goal range, the clock wound down to halftime on the Chiefs’ possession.

Still down 14-10 to kick off the second half, the Chiefs didn’t mess around on their nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. They stayed ahead of the sticks with a handful of chunk gains, only facing one third down: a third-and-7 in the red zone that turned into a 14-yard touchdown reception by running back Jerick Mckinnon; he avoided multiple tackles before crossing the goal line. That made it a 17-14 Kansas City lead.

The Chiefs’ defense started their first possession of the second half strong: defensive end Melvin Ingram quickly beat a blocker for a tackle for loss — and then Jarran Reed batted down a pass at the line. But Denver converted with a third-and-13 pass to wide receiver Tim Patrick over Ward. Soon after, Melvin Gordon broke through and scored from 47 yards away; poor tackling from the secondary allowed it to happen.

Trailing 21-17, Kansas City looked to answer — and started strong by getting past the 50-yard line. As soon as they crossed it, they stalled; three straight incompletions led to a punt from the Broncos’ 43-yard line.

The Denver drive started with a sack by defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, which was coupled with a false-start penalty to get them into a third-and-20. They didn’t convert, punting the ball back to the Chiefs.

The Chiefs got another shot at taking back the lead, overcoming a third-and-20 with a 19-yard completion to Pringle. On fourth-and-1, they converted with a quick sprint-out pass to Hill.

To start the fourth quarter, Kansas City faced a third-and-6 — and the conversion attempt failed on a batted pass at the line of scrimmage. From Denver’s 32-yard line, the Chiefs elected to kick a field goal that narrowed the Denver lead to 21-20.

From 75 yards away, Denver methodically drove towards a lead-extending score — succeeding on the ground and through the air on a 10-play drive. But on that 10th play, a Melvin Ingram blew up a handoff to Gordon and that caused a fumble; linebacker Nick Bolton scooped it up and returned it for an incredible 86-yard touchdown. An ensuing two-point conversion gave the Chiefs a 28-21 lead.

Looking to bounce back, Denver got it going quickly with a 29-yard gain to open their next drive. Soon after, Jeudy got loose for a 28-yard gain deep down the left sideline over cornerback Mike Hughes. Three plays later, Denver had to settle for a field goal on fourth-and-9 — narrowing the score to 28-24 with over four minutes to go.

Trying to close out the game, the Chiefs started strong with a 44-yard gain by Hardman off a quick swing pass behind the line of scrimmage. From there, the Chiefs managed to earn a first down on the ground as they closed in on the two-minute warning. On the last play before the break, Kelce converted a third-and-8 with a tough catch over the middle.

From the six-yard line, the Chiefs kneeled to run down the clock and secure a 28-24 victory.


Injuries


The ESPN broadcast reported that wide receiver Tyreek Hill “hurt his heel” during warmups, which led to his limited availability in the game.

Running back Darrel Williams didn’t see action in the second half, and it was later announced that he would be questionable to return with a toe injury.


Special teams


Undrafted rookie safety Zayne Anderson committed his second special-teams penalty in as many weeks; in the first quarter, he ran into the punter while attempting to block it — resulting in a fresh set of downs for Denver.

Kicker Harrison Butker converted all three of his point-after attempts. He also converted a 34-yard field goal late in the second period — then a 51-yard kick early in the fourth quarter. Due to wet field conditions, Butker slipped on a kickoff early in the game — but didn’t appear to have an issue for the remainder of the day.


Statistics


CATEGORY KC DEN
Total Yards 390 364
Total Plays 74 54
Yards per play 5.3 6.7
Rushing Yards 135 191
Rush Attempts 29 28
Yards per rush 4.70 6.80
Passing Gross Yards 270 178
Sacks/Yards lost 1/15 1/5
Passing Net Yards 255 173
Comp/Att/Pct 27/44/61% 13/25/52%
Yards per pass 5.70 6.70
Interceptions thrown 0 0
Fumbles lost 0 1
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties/Yards 5/45 6/45
Total Drives 8 8
First downs 28 18
Rushing first downs 6 8
Passing first downs 19 9
Penalty first downs 3 1
Third down (Made/Att/Pct) 8/14/57% 7/12/58%
Fourth down (Made/Att/Pct) 1/1/100% 0/0/0%
Goal to go (Made/Att/Pct) 1/3/33% 1/1/100%
Red Zone (Made/Att/Pct) 2/4/50% 1/3/33%
Touchdowns 3 3
TDs/Rushing 0 3
TDs/Passing 2 0
TDs/Interception 0 0
TDs/Kickoff Return 0 0
TDs/Fumble Return 1 0
TDs/Punt Return 0 0
TDs/Defense/ST 1 0
Safeties 0 0
Extra Points (Made/Att) 3/3 3/3
Field Goals (Made/Att) 2/2 1/1
Two-Point Conv (Made/Att) 1/1 0/0
Kickoffs (Num/EZ/TB) 6/5/5 5/5/5
Punts (Num/Yds) 2/101 3/145
Gross Punting Avg Yds 50.5 48.3
Net Punting Avg Yds 30.5 46.7
Total Rtn Yds (No KOs) 5 0
Punt Returns (Num/Yds) 1/5 0/0
Kickoff Returns (Num/Yds) 0/0 1/0
Int Returns (Num/Yds) 0/0 0/0
Punts blocked 0 0
FGs/PATs Blocked 0/0 0/0
Timeouts (Rem/Used) 2/1 0/3
Time of Possession 33:04 26:56
Attendance - 76,012

CHIEFS PASSING C ATT YDS AVG TD LG INT SK SKYD RTG
Patrick Mahomes 27 44 270 6.1 2 44 0 1 15 93.9
TEAM 27 44 270 6.1 2 44 0 1 15 --

BRONCOS PASSING C ATT YDS AVG TD LG INT SK SKYD RTG
Courtland Sutton 1 1 16 16.0 0 16 0 0 0 118.8
Drew Lock 12 24 162 6.8 0 31 0 1 5 71.9
TEAM 13 25 178 7.1 0 31 0 1 5 --

CHIEFS RUSHING CAR YDS AVG TD LG
Patrick Mahomes 9 54 6.0 0 25
Darrel Williams 7 17 2.4 0 5
Derrick Gore 7 30 4.3 0 6
Jerick McKinnon 5 24 4.8 0 7
Mecole Hardman 1 10 10.0 0 10
TEAM 29 135 4.7 0 25

BRONCOS RUSHING CAR YDS AVG TD LG
Javonte Williams 12 46 3.8 0 15
Melvin Gordon III 12 110 9.2 1 47t
Drew Lock 4 35 8.8 2 23t
TEAM 28 191 6.8 3 47T

CHIEFS RECEIVING REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS YAC
Josh Gordon 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Travis Kelce 4 34 8.5 1 12 5 10
Jerick McKinnon 3 26 8.7 1 14t 3 40
Demarcus Robinson 3 19 6.3 0 11 6 4
Tyreek Hill 1 2 2.0 0 2 3 1
Byron Pringle 5 56 11.2 0 19 8 18
Darrel Williams 3 30 10.0 0 17 4 33
Mecole Hardman 8 103 12.9 0 44 11 99
Derrick Gore 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
TEAM 27 270 10.0 2 44 42 205

BRONCOS RECEIVING REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS YAC
Melvin Gordon III 1 6 6.0 0 6 2 10
Tim Patrick 6 95 15.8 0 31 10 31
Courtland Sutton 1 13 13.0 0 13 3 9
Noah Fant 1 16 16.0 0 16 2 1
Jerry Jeudy 2 30 15.0 0 28 5 3
Javonte Williams 2 18 9.0 0 11 2 26
TEAM 13 178 13.7 0 31 24 80

CHIEFS FUMBLES FUM LOST FF REC
(OWN)
TD REC
(OPP)
TD
Nick Bolton 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Melvin Ingram III 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
TEAM 0 0 1 0 0 1 1

BRONCOS FUMBLES FUM LOST FF REC
(OWN)
TD REC
(OPP)
TD
Melvin Gordon III 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

CHIEFS DEFENSE TOT SOLO ASST SACK YDS INT TFL PD QBH TD FF FR
Nick Bolton 6 4 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
L'Jarius Sneed 6 3 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Juan Thornhill 5 3 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Charvarius Ward 5 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Melvin Ingram III 4 3 1 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Anthony Hitchens 4 2 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tyrann Mathieu 3 3 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Willie Gay 3 2 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Jarran Reed 3 1 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Tershawn Wharton 3 0 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rashad Fenton 2 2 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Mike Hughes 2 2 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Derrick Nnadi 1 1 0 1.0 5.0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Frank Clark 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Niemann 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Sorensen 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Danna 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Okafor 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM 52 30 22 1 5 0 3 4 2 0 1 1

BRONCOS DEFENSE TOT SOLO ASST SACK YDS INT TFL PD QBH TD FF FR
Michael Ojemudia 11 8 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Caden Sterns 9 6 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Fuller 8 6 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Baron Browning 5 3 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Bradley Chubb 5 2 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Jonas Griffith 5 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Callahan 4 3 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathon Cooper 4 1 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Mike Purcell 4 1 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Justin Simmons 3 3 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Shamar Stephen 3 1 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Shelby Harris 2 2 0 1.0 15.0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Malik Reed 2 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dre'Mont Jones 2 0 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Harris 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Weatherly 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
TEAM 68 39 29 1 15 0 1 5 5 0 0 0

CHIEFS INT INT YDS AVG LG TD
TEAM 0 0 0 0 0

BRONCOS INT INT YDS AVG LG TD
TEAM 0 0 0 0 0

CHIEFS KICK RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
TEAM 0 0 0 0 0

BRONCOS KICK RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
Aaron Patrick 1 0 0.0 0 0
TEAM 1 0 0.0 0 0

CHIEFS PUNT RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
Mecole Hardman 1 5 5.0 5 0
TEAM 1 5 5.0 5 0

BRONCOS PUNT RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
TEAM 0 0 0 0 0

CHIEFS KICKING FGM/FGA PCT LONG XP PTS
Harrison Butker 2/2 100.0 51 2 8
TEAM 2/2 100.0 51 2 8

BRONCOS KICKING FGM/FGA PCT LONG XP PTS
Brandon McManus 1/1 100.0 31 3 6
TEAM 1/1 100.0 31 3 6

CHIEFS PUNTING NO YDS AVG TB I20 LG
Tommy Townsend 2 101 50.5 2 0 58
TEAM 2 101 50.0 2 0 58

BRONCOS PUNTING NO YDS AVG TB I20 LG
Sam Martin 3 145 48.3 0 2 65
TEAM 3 145 48.0 0 2 65