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Final score: Chiefs use fourth-quarter surge to get by Broncos 27-24

Kansas City get its 13th win of the season — and its 15th straight against Denver.

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon, picking up their 15th consecutive win against their AFC West rivals — and staying alive for the AFC’s No. 1 postseason seed.

The Chiefs jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter after holding the Broncos to a three-and-out and methodically moving down the field for a touchdown — But then punter Tommy Townsend lost the handle on the extra-point snap. Kansas City was on the verge of a 14-3 lead when Patrick Mahomes threw up an end-zone interception. The Chiefs forced a punt, but then gave Denver the ball at the Kansas City 16-yard line after Karadrius Toney fumbled during a punt return. Denver took a 10-6 lead on a Russell Wilson touchdown run.

The Chiefs took a 13-10 lead into halftime after a seven-play, 75-yard drive and a 51-yard field-goal attempt that may have been tipped. Denver went ahead 17-13 with a six-play drive midway through the third quarter. The Chiefs then scored twice in quick succession — the second on the heels of a L’Jarius Sneed interception — to take a 27-17 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining. The Broncos responded with a long drive — helped by a defensive penalty that erased another interception — to narrow the score to 27-24, which became the final.


First quarter

The Chiefs won the opening coin toss, making their typical decision to defer to the second half. That gave the Broncos the ball to begin the game, starting from their own 17-yard line after a good tackle on kickoff coverage by rookie cornerback Nazeeh Johnson.

The Chiefs’ defense started where it left off against the Seahawks, forcing a quick punt. In three plays, the highlights came from defensive end George Karlaftis blowing up an outside run play — then safety Justin Reid defending a third-down pass to force fourth down.

For Kansas City’s first possession, things got crazy quickly: after moving the chains once, Mahomes threw a second-down pass — but it was batted at the line of scrimmage back into his hands. The quarterback scurried with the ball and nearly gained a first down, ultimately completing a six-yard pass to himself. After a short run on third down was stuffed, Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce on an out route to convert fourth down.

A few snaps later, the Chiefs entered the red zone with an 18-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore — who evaded multiple defenders on his way to the five-yard line. Running back Isiah Pacheco punched it in from there, earning the Chiefs a 6-0 lead after a botched extra-point attempt.

Denver did get a first down on their second drive, but a batted down pass by defensive end Carlos Dunlap set back their possession soon after. On a third-down attempt, quarterback Russell Wilson misfired — leading to another punt.

The Chiefs’ second drive didn’t get off the ground after a Pacheco moved the chains on a nine-yard reception. On third and one, Mahomes maneuvered a cluttered pocket — but a fluttering pass was too low for Kelce to scoop up, leading to a punt.

The Broncos were able to string together a few first downs on their next drive, using quick passes to beat soft coverage from the Chiefs and negating some quality snaps from the run defense. They approached midfield as the first quarter ended.

Second quarter

The Chiefs made Denver work to move the ball, which was represented by rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie’s corralling of Jeudy on a quick pass, preventing his elusive moves from getting to the marker. It put Denver in fourth and short, but a quarterback sneak converted. A few snaps later, rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson was called for holding and reset the downs.

The Chiefs’ defense did push Denver to third down soon after, where pressure led by defensive tackle Chris Jones forced Wilson to scramble out. He attempted a tight-window throw as he was nailed by safety Justin Reid, and the pass fell incomplete thanks to rookie safety Bryan Cook’s coverage. A field goal made the score 6-3, still in Kansas City’s favor.

Fireworks came out in Kansas City’s next drive, when wide receiver Kadarius Toney ran a wheel route from the backfield and made a play on a pass downfield to gain 38 yards. On the following play, a dipping and dodging Mahomes flipped a quick pass to Kelce — who took it for 12 yards and got to the 10-yard line.

MVP chants broke out because of these highlight plays — and they were followed up with three failed attempts to score; the third was a pass to wide receiver Justin Watson, under thrown and intercepted by safety Justin Simmons in the end zone.

The Chiefs’ defense did their best to make up for the offense’s red-zone mistake, setting Denver back into third and 10 when Karlaftis took Wilson down for a sack. On the next play, Danna appeared to have a sack of his own — but Wilson got it out just in time to gain 18 yards and move the chains. The Chiefs’ defense still held up, forcing a punt after three consecutive stops. That punt was returned by Toney, who coughed up the ball as he tried to evade defenders. Denver had the ball at the Chiefs’ 16-yard line.

The Broncos immediately capitalized, scoring on a 16-yard designed run to Wilson. It gave Denver a 10-6 lead.

As they love to do, the Chiefs gave Toney a quick chance at redemption from the fumble — sending him on a deep crosser that found space to gain 27 yards. It took the Chiefs to midfield, but right guard Trey Smith was flagged for holding — forcing them back. Kansas City got it all back and more, with back-to-back completions by tight end Noah Gray and running back Jerick McKinnon; the latter gained 28 yards, advancing Kansas City inside the 20-yard line. It led up to the two-minute warning, with the Chiefs at the 15.

Mahomes threw two incompletions out of the break, but Denver’s defense was rightfully called for holding to keep the drive alive. A few plays later, Mahomes found McKinnon open on a swing pass to the flat, scoring from six yards away to take back the lead, 13-10.

Denver had just over a minute to make something happen, and appeared to be in good position when running back Chase Edmonds got past linebacker Nick Bolton for a 27-yard completion. However, the chaotic blitzing of Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo came through a few plays later: McDuffie was able to strip Wilson as he threw, leading to a fumble recovery by Karlaftis to give Kansas City possession with 11 seconds before halftime.

Looking to get a last-second play, Mahomes found Watson on a corner route — catching it on the sideline to stop the clock with five seconds left. The last-minute kick fell flat and short, putting the game into halftime with a 13-10 score.

Third quarter

To open the third quarter, the Chiefs pass game looked for big plays — but could not get either completed; an incompletion to Moore was followed up by a short-armed throw to a streaking Valdes-Scantling, leading to a quick punt.

Denver’s opening drive started much better than Kansas City’s, gaining 24 yards out of the gate on a play-action rollout pass. From midfield, another big play was negated by an offensive holding call. That backed Denver up, eventually leading to third and 16; in their attempt to convert, defensive end Frank Clark read a screen play and blew it up, leading to a punt.

The Kansas City offense continued to stall as they opened another possession; two targets to Valdes-Scantling each fell incomplete. On third down, Mahomes was forced to scramble — ending up short of the sticks. It was the second punt in as many second-half drives for the Chiefs.

The Broncos took the ball over, rolling down the field without facing a single third down on their six-play scoring drive. Running back Latavius Murray had a 19-yard gain to help set up the score, but it was tight end Albert Okwuegbunam finding space over the middle to score from 25 yards away. It gave Denver a 17-13 lead.

With a chance to take the lead back, the Chiefs’ pass offense failed before it could even launch. Mahomes threw two incompletions to start the drive, extending his streak of missing passes to six; on third down, he scrambled to no man’s land and was wrapped up to end the possession.

The Chiefs’ defense was forced to step up, defending the four-point lead — and players like Dunlap and Gay were the ones to make the individual plays to force third and 9. A deep completion to wide receiver Courtland Sutton appeared to be a back breaker, but he was flagged for offensive pass interference to negate the play. Kansas City closed out the drive by defending the draw, getting the offense the ball back.

The dormant offense finally woke up on this possession that leaked into the fourth quarter, fueled by an 11-yard completion to wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and a 22-yard gain by Valdes-Scantling. They were set up at the Denver 17-yard line when the third quarter ended.

Fourth quarter

To open the final period of the game, Mahomes used play action and a clean pocket to find tight end Blake Bell — barreling over a defender to score from 17 yards away. Kansas City had the lead back, with a 20-17 advantage.

Kansas City’s defense followed up a quick touchdown by the offense with a quick play of their own: cornerback L’Jarius Sneed jumped a deep route and intercepted Wilson, returning it the Broncos’ 17-yard line.

After two plays that allowed Pacheco to move the chains for the offense, the Chiefs went to the veteran of the two backs once again; McKinnon found space towards the front pylon, and caught the scoring pass — pushing Kansas City’s lead to 27-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Now in desperation mode, the Broncos’ offense tried to manufacture yards — clawing their way to third and 6 quickly. Wilson looked to attack Joshua Williams, covering Jeudy on a slant; the ball fell to the ground, but a flag for defensive pass interference was thrown to give Denver a new set of downs.

With another pass play gaining a first down, Denver was past midfield — but an eight-yard sack by defensive tackle Khalen Saunders pushed them back and into third and 15. On the conversion attempt, a dumped off pass gained eight. The Broncos went for the fourth down opportunity, which ended up in an interception by Bolton off of a hurried throw — but another penalty on Joshua Williams gave Denver new life.

From the 35-yard line, the Broncos pushed into the red zone — getting all the way to the four-yard line when Wilson found his tight end, who fought through Chiefs defenders for 16 yards. On the next play, Wilson scrambled in — shrinking Kansas City’s lead to 27-24.

The Chiefs had a chance to answer the score and put the game away, but they were not able to accomplish that. After one first down, Mahomes threw two straight incompletions — both inaccurate passes that could have been catches with better placement. It gave Denver the chance to win the game, getting the ball with under four minutes to go.

The Broncos pushed the ball to their own 42-yard line, setting up in third and 5 before the two-minute warning hit.

Only gaining three yards, Denver went for it on fourth and 2 — and Chris Jones took that as his chance to end the game. He blew through the Denver interior blocking to wrap up Wilson, sacking him to turn over possession with 1:21 left on the game clock.

Needing one more first down, the Chiefs went to what they do best: Mahomes passing to Kelce. The tight end converted a third and 5, and gave Kansas City a 27-24 win.


Injuries


Linebacker Nick Bolton stayed down, appeared shaken up on the field after a play early in the second quarter. He returned to the game a few snaps later.

Left guard Joe Thuney remained on the ground after a play early in the second half. He was seen on the sideline with the training staff, who were examining his right leg. It was later announced he suffered an ankle injury; reserve guard Nick Allegretti took his place.

Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed stayed down after his interception in the fourth quarter, holding his hip as he walked off the field. He was announced questionable to return, then later went to the locker room. He was seen back on the field during the last minutes of the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Skyy Moore reportedly exited to the locker room in the fourth quarter. He was later ruled out to return.


Special Teams


On the Chiefs’ first try at the point-after attempt, a botched snap led to holder Tommy Townsend running with the ball and eventually being tackled.

Kicker Harrison Butker converted all three of the extra-point attempts he was able to kick. His only attempt at a field goal came from 51 yards away late in the first half, but it was partically blocked.

Townsend’s first punt traveled 60 yards, being returned to the Denver 21-yard line. Neither of his other two punts traveled further. Townsend’s fourth punt was downed inside the 20yard line, while his fifth was returned for 17 yards in the fourth quarter.

Punt returner Kadarius Toney has two fair catches through the first quarter. His next two returns gained 14 yards in total — but one was fumbled and led to a Denver touchdown.


Statistics


CATEGORY DEN KC
Total Yards 307 374
Total Plays 66 58
Yards per play 4.7 6.4
Rushing Yards 117 46
Rush Attempts 24 16
Yards per rush 4.90 2.90
Passing Gross Yards 222 328
Sacks/Yards lost 4/32 0/0
Passing Net Yards 190 328
Comp/Att/Pct 26/38/68% 29/42/69%
Yards per pass 4.50 7.80
Interceptions thrown 1 1
Fumbles lost 1 1
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties/Yards 3/23 5/31
Total Drives 12 12
First downs 21 22
Rushing first downs 6 3
Passing first downs 12 18
Penalty first downs 3 1
Third down (Made/Att/Pct) 3/12/25% 2/9/22%
Fourth down (Made/Att/Pct) 1/2/50% 1/1/100%
Goal to go (Made/Att/Pct) 1/1/100% 3/4/75%
Red Zone (Made/Att/Pct) 2/2/100% 4/5/80%
Touchdowns 3 4
TDs/Rushing 2 1
TDs/Passing 1 3
TDs/Interception 0 0
TDs/Kickoff Return 0 0
TDs/Fumble Return 0 0
TDs/Punt Return 0 0
TDs/Defense/ST 0 0
Safeties 0 0
Extra Points (Made/Att) 3/3 3/4
Field Goals (Made/Att) 1/1 0/1
Two-Point Conv (Made/Att) 0/0 0/1
Kickoffs (Num/EZ/TB) 5/5/5 5/5/4
Punts (Num/Yds) 5/257 5/263
Gross Punting Avg Yds 51.4 52.6
Net Punting Avg Yds 44.6 45.2
Total Rtn Yds (No KOs) 37 39
Punt Returns (Num/Yds) 3/37 2/14
Kickoff Returns (Num/Yds) 1/20 0/0
Int Returns (Num/Yds) 1/0 1/25
Punts blocked 0 0
FGs/PATs Blocked 0/0 1/0
Timeouts (Rem/Used) 0/3 3/0
Time of Possession 33:06 26:54
Attendance - 73,571

CHIEFS PASSING C ATT YDS AVG TD LG INT SK SKYD RTG
Patrick Mahomes 29 42 328 7.8 3 38 1 0 0 106.1
TEAM 29 42 328 7.8 3 38 1 0 0 --

BRONCOS PASSING C ATT YDS AVG TD LG INT SK SKYD RTG
Russell Wilson 26 38 222 5.8 1 27 1 4 32 81.2
TEAM 26 38 222 5.8 1 27 1 4 32 --

CHIEFS RUSHING CAR YDS AVG TD LG
Isiah Pacheco 9 31 3.4 1 6
Patrick Mahomes 4 8 2.0 0 4
Jerick McKinnon 2 4 2.0 0 4
Ronald Jones II 1 3 3.0 0 3
TEAM 16 46 2.9 1 6

BRONCOS RUSHING CAR YDS AVG TD LG
Latavius Murray 12 56 4.7 0 19
Chase Edmonds 7 34 4.9 0 10
Russell Wilson 4 27 6.8 2 16t
Kendall Hinton 1 0 0.0 0 0
TEAM 24 117 4.9 2 19

CHIEFS RECEIVING REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS YAC
Patrick Mahomes 1 6 6.0 0 6 1 15
Noah Gray 1 12 12.0 0 12 1 12
Blake Bell 1 17 17.0 1 17t 1 5
Justin Watson 1 27 27.0 0 27 2 0
Isiah Pacheco 2 18 9.0 0 9 2 16
JuJu Smith-Schuster 2 21 10.5 0 11 3 15
Marquez Valdes-Scantling 2 28 14.0 0 22 7 3
Skyy Moore 3 33 11.0 0 18 4 41
Kadarius Toney 4 71 17.8 0 38 4 23
Jerick McKinnon 5 52 10.4 2 28 6 36
Travis Kelce 7 43 6.1 0 12 10 21
TEAM 29 328 11.3 3 38 41 187

BRONCOS RECEIVING REC YDS AVG TD LG TGTS YAC
Kendall Hinton 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Andrew Beck 2 10 5.0 0 6 2 9
Eric Saubert 3 30 10.0 0 24 3 16
Chase Edmonds 3 39 13.0 0 27 3 28
Albert Okwuegbunam 3 45 15.0 1 25t 6 20
Latavius Murray 4 16 4.0 0 8 6 18
Courtland Sutton 4 44 11.0 0 18 6 6
Jerry Jeudy 7 38 5.4 0 11 8 39
TEAM 26 222 8.5 1 27 36 136

CHIEFS FUMBLES FUM LOST FF REC
(OWN)
TD REC
(OPP)
TD
George Karlaftis 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Trent McDuffie 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Kadarius Toney 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM 1 1 1 0 0 1 0

BRONCOS FUMBLES FUM LOST FF REC
(OWN)
TD REC
(OPP)
TD
Eric Saubert 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Alex Singleton 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Russell Wilson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
TEAM 1 1 1 0 0 1 0

CHIEFS DEFENSE TOT SOLO ASST SACK YDS INT TFL PD QBH TD FF FR
Nick Bolton 10 4 6 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Jaylen Watson 7 6 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Willie Gay 7 5 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Trent McDuffie 7 4 3 1.0 12.0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0
Juan Thornhill 6 3 3 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Frank Clark 4 4 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Chris Jones 3 3 0 1.0 9.0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Khalen Saunders 3 2 1 1.0 8.0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
Justin Reid 3 1 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Leo Chenal 3 1 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
L'Jarius Sneed 2 2 0 0.0 0.0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
George Karlaftis 2 1 1 1.0 3.0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1
Bryan Cook 2 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Darius Harris 2 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Dunlap II 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0
Derrick Nnadi 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Danna 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
TEAM 63 40 23 4 32 1 5 5 8 0 1 1

BRONCOS DEFENSE TOT SOLO ASST SACK YDS INT TFL PD QBH TD FF FR
Kareem Jackson 7 6 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Josey Jewell 7 4 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Alex Singleton 7 4 3 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathan Harris 5 4 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Damarri Mathis 4 3 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jonathon Cooper 4 2 2 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Lamar Jackson 3 3 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
DeShawn Williams 3 2 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Mike Purcell 2 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Pat Surtain II 2 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Simmons 1 1 0 0.0 0.0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
Wyatt Ray 1 0 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
K'Waun Williams 0 0 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
TEAM 46 31 15 0 0 1 0 5 3 0 0 0

CHIEFS INT INT YDS AVG LG TD
L'Jarius Sneed 1 25 25.0 25 0
TEAM 1 25 25.0 25 0

BRONCOS INT INT YDS AVG LG TD
Justin Simmons 1 0 0.0 0 0
TEAM 1 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
Marlon Mack 1 20 20.0 20 0
TEAM 1 20 20.0 20 0

CHIEFS PUNT RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
Kadarius Toney 2 14 7.0 7 0
TEAM 2 14 7.0 7 0

BRONCOS PUNT RET NO YDS AVG LG TD
Kendall Hinton 3 37 12.3 17 0
TEAM 3 37 12.3 17 0

CHIEFS KICKING FGM/FGA PCT LONG XP PTS
Harrison Butker 0/1 0.0 0 1 1
TEAM 0/1 0.0 0 1 1

BRONCOS KICKING FGM/FGA PCT LONG XP PTS
Brandon McManus 1/1 100.0 49 1 4
TEAM 1/1 100.0 49 1 4

CHIEFS PUNTING NO YDS AVG TB I20 LG
Tommy Townsend 5 263 52.6 0 1 60
TEAM 5 263 52.0 0 1 60

BRONCOS PUNTING NO YDS AVG TB I20 LG
Corliss Waitman 5 257 51.4 1 2 57
TEAM 5 257 51.0 1 2 57

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