The Kansas City Chiefs moved to 5-1 on the season with a prime-time win over their one-time rival, the Denver Broncos. It wasn’t the blowout that we expected, but it also seemed like the Chiefs were 100% in control of this game from beginning to end, and they may have even have been toying with the Broncos with some whimsical playcalling.
Here are a few who stood out on Thursday night:
Tight end Travis Kelce: When you see Travis Kelce not only get open downfield and make a catch but also pitch to Noah Gray for a first down, you know we’re in for a show. Kelce lived up to his moniker of literally being “always open,” leading the team (as usual) with nine targets, nine catches and 124 yards. He’s clearly not distracted by one of the biggest celebrities in the world watching — the Chiefs are still undefeated with Taylor Swift in attendance.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: The four catches for 72 yards represented a solid day. The 28-yard plays showed what Rashe Rice can do running after the catch. Perhaps the most exciting part of Rashee Rice’s game against the Broncos was the efficiency. He caught each of his four targets, avoiding the one drop per game we had come to expect. The rookie is getting better every week and should continue to be a cornerstone of this offense going forward.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: Isiah Pacheco was his usual energetic, physical presence in the running game this week, with 62 yards on the ground. But he also showed off his pass-catching/screen-play ability with six receptions and 36 yards through the air. He’s turning into an every-down back, a balanced part of a complete offense.
EDGE George Karlaftis: George Karlaftis was active early and often against the Broncos, making life difficult on an already struggling offense. The “Greek Freak” had two batted passes to go along with a sack he shared with Malik Herring.
Kicker Harrison Butker: Like a pitcher on a perfect game, we’re all scared to jinx Harrison Butker, but he’s been excellent this season. Not only did he remain perfect on both field goals and extra points but — standing on the painted arrowhead at midfield — he also easily hit a 60-yard kick to go into halftime. Butker is on an absolute heater right now.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones: This is becoming a weekly thing for Chris Jones... yet another sack and three quarterback hits in an impactful game. He even made a big play against the run. At some point, we’ll have to stop calling him out in this article, because when you do it every single week, it becomes the norm.
Safety Justin Reid: On fourth down in the first drive of the game, Justin Reid ran Russel Wilson out of bounds to finish a play and a drive where it looked like he might escape. It wouldn’t be the only impact play from the Chiefs' veteran safety, as he picked up his first interception of the season on a deflection.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr.: On a night when Nick Bolton had an interception, it was his counterpart who seemed to stand out on a consistent basis. Willie Gay Jr. recovered a fumble to help close this one out and deflected the pass that Reid picked off.
Linebacker Drue Tranquill: There was yet another linebacker who stood out this week, so perhaps we should call it a group of winners. Drue Tranquill proved he can still be an impact player, even when Bolton is in the lineup. In the first half, he knifed through the offense for a drive-ending tackle-for-loss. Then, he notched a sack as well. With Leo Chenal also making plays, this linebacker unit looks absolutely loaded.
Returner Montrell Washington: When the Chiefs brought in the return specialist, they were hoping for reliability. Even though they weren’t costly on this day, Motrell Washington had two fumbles — one went out of bounds, the other was a muffed punt he recovered. Not ideal.
Right tackle Jawaan Taylor: He again had a costly penalty, which is becoming a terrible trend. Taylor also appeared to completely miss or ignore Zach Allen as he flew untouched into Mahomes for a fourth-quarter sack. The Chiefs would settle for yet another field goal as a result. These are the types of mistakes that lead a game to be much closer than it should have been.
The Chiefs’ short-yardage offense: From the failed fake-field-goal sneak to the direct snap to Kadarius Toney resulting in a loss, this team continues to be a mess when they try to gain two yards or less. Sure, they were trying some unusual playcalls this week, perhaps because they knew the Broncos weren’t a threat, but it’s still concerning that with the league’s best interior offensive line and the other talent on offense the Chiefs can’t seem to convert on third or fourth-and-short.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.