Offense (Ron Kopp Jr.)
Based on history, the ugly, mucked-up performance from the Chiefs’ offense was closer to what I believed the Denver defense could force this year. However, the way Kansas City fell on its face on Sunday afternoon was discouraging well beyond being a tough matchup with a familiar opponent.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes registered a 59.2 passer rating in a performance that featured two interceptions and a third turnover by fumble. He was sacked three times — a staggering number when you consider how well the protection held up throughout the game. It strongly suggests an offense that cannot produce open receivers.
Tight end Travis Kelce led the team in receiving. He was one of only two players to get more than two receptions. Wide receiver Rashee Rice was the other, gaining 39 yards on one play in the second quarter. But he also missed a block that led to a tackle-for-loss on third down —and then dropped an open pass that could have made a difference.
Wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling was not strong enough with the football, failing to bring in one contested catch opportunity on the sideline — and then fumbling the ball as he turned upfield after another catch. His problems, however, weren’t as impactful as Skyy Moore’s. The second-year wideout essentially ended the game when he failed to secure a catchable end-zone pass on fourth down.
With the way the game played out, the running game was basically abandoned — even though running back Isiah Pacheco averaged five yards per carry on eight handoffs. Adjacent to a sloppy passing attack, he and the offensive line did what they could.
Offensive Player of the Game: Wide receiver Justin Watson
In his return from the dislocated elbow he suffered roughly two weeks ago, Watson made only two catches — but both moved the chains in important moments. One converted a third-and-13, helping the Chiefs to their first field goal of the game. The other was a 15-yard catch on a second-and-10.
In one of the worst performances yet from the wide receiver corps, Watson proved again that he is the team’s most reliable wideout.
Defense (Caleb James)
The Chiefs' defense was put into many rough spots — but in the end, the Broncos’ long drives and chunk plays eventually doomed it. Denver racked up nearly 34 minutes of possession, using slow, methodical drives to work the ball down the field.
The team had no answer for Courtland Sutton in the red zone. He forced two defensive pass interference calls and scored a touchdown. L’Jarius Sneed struggled against Sutton for most of the game. Jerry Jeudy chipped in with an explosive play — and a touchdown where he beat Jaylen Watson in man coverage.
Without linebacker Nick Bolton, the Kansas City run defense allowed Denver to rip off a few chunk plays and keep the ball moving downfield. Early on, the Broncos ran the ball well — and the Chiefs’ missed tackles led to extra yards.
Kansas City did have a good game rushing Russell Wilson, recording six sacks and hitting him eight times. George Karlaftis led the way with 2.5 sacks — the most of his career. Mike Danna, Drue Tranquill and Leo Chenal all had a sack and Charles Omenihu recorded half a sack. All of that happened largely because Chris Jones was double-teamed for most of the game.
Tranquill led the team with 11 tackles. Chenal was next in line with 10.
The defense did its part. It was put in some bad spots from time of possession — and bad field position from offensive mishaps.
The Chiefs will certainly have to shore up their run defense. It continues to be encouraging, however, to see the pass rush get home — and players outside of Chris Jones beginning to thrive.
Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive end George Karlaftis
The silver lining for this game was the performance of last year’s first-round draft pick. A 2.5-sack game (with a forced fumble and seven total tackles) was — by far — the best of his career. The development he has shown this season is a testament to his effort toward becoming a franchise-level pass rusher.
The Broncos wanted to keep Jones from beating them, but Karlaftis was able to make them pay for that approach, stepping up time and time again to beat the offensive tackles and pressure the quarterback.
With six sacks on the season, it appears as though his best football is ahead of him — and the Chiefs have a chance to create one of the league’s best defensive lines.