'Beautiful' defensive effort helps Chiefs maintain AFC West lead
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs' Andy Reid is an offensive-minded coach to his core, so the Kansas City defense must have done something special against the Denver Broncos on Sunday night for him to call its performance "beautiful."
Three turnovers. Three fourth-down stops. One pick-6 to seal a fifth straight win.
Yep, sounds like a fitting description.
"It was just beautiful to watch," Reid gushed after the 22-9 victory in chilly Arrowhead Stadium, which kept Kansas City in first place in the crowded AFC West as it chases a sixth consecutive division crown.
Patrick Mahomes had just 184 yards passing with a touchdown run and an interception, and his receiving corps dropped so many passes he probably thought the ball was greased. But despite the Chiefs (8-4) gaining 257 yards of total offense, they managed to keep a one-game lead on the Chargers thanks to the other side of the ball.
"Mostly it's been about a commitment to each other, believing in each other, not letting outside noise dictate what we feel," Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. "It's been a total team effort to stay committed to each other."
Things went haywire for the Broncos early in the game, when a 20-play drive ended with a failed fourth-down play rather than an easy field goal. And they didn't get much better when Teddy Bridgewater threw a pair of second-half interceptions, including the one that Daniel Sorensen returned 75 yards for a score with 9 1/2 minutes left to put the game away.
"We moved the ball well in certain areas, certain times of the game. Guys stepped up and made plays," Bridgewater said. "But when you give them opportunities and you don't maximize your opportunities, it's a recipe to get beat."
Bridgewater was held to 257 yards passing for the Broncos (6-6), who have lost 12 in a row to their longtime rival dating to the 2015 season. Javonte Williams started in place of injured running back Melvin Gordon III and had 102 yards rushing along with a touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.
"The loss makes you feel empty no matter what," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
The Chiefs must have spent their bye working on their opening offensive script, because they effortlessly flew downfield for a touchdown. They even overcame an offensive pass-interference call before Mahomes scampered for the score.
After the Chiefs forced a second consecutive three-and-out, Harrison Butker made a 56-yard field goal.
That was just about the last anyone saw of Mahomes and Co. for a while.
The Broncos answered with a field goal of their own. Then, after forcing a quick punt, they embarked on a 20-play odyssey that carried them 83 yards and chewed up nearly 12 minutes of the second quarter — and resulted in no points.
Denver twice converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive, then went for the hat trick on fourth-and-2 at the Kansas City 8. Williams took the handoff and was stuffed by linebacker Willie Gay Jr. for a turnover on downs, the first time since 2009 that a 20-play driving lasting at least 11 minutes didn't result in points.
"Frustrating. That's all I can really say," Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton said. "It would be nice to get points."
That wasn't the end of the Broncos' woes. They went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, Bridgewater was picked off by Juan Thornhill on their next, and Caden Sterns ran into returner Diontae Spencer after forcing Kansas City to punt; the Chiefs managed to hop on the muff for a fresh set of downs.
Butker hit his third field goal a few minutes later, extending the lead to 16-3 with 13 1/2 minutes to go, and Sorensen tacked on his pick-6 to put the game out of reach.
"It's tough to win in this league," said Reid, who improved to 20-3 coming off a bye, including 7-2 since his arrival in Kansas City. "And to have that opportunity against a good football team, we'll feel good about ourselves for a minute here until we get ourselves ready for the Raiders come Tuesday."
STATS AND STREAKS
The Broncos are 3-20 in December when playing at Kansas City dating to the days of the AFL. ... Bridgewater had not thrown an interception in four straight games before the Chiefs picked him twice. ... The Broncos' Patrick Surtain II, the reigning AFC defensive player of the week, had an interception. ... The Chiefs' defense has allowed 17 points or fewer in five straight games. ... Mahomes needs 73 yards passing to pass Alex Smith (17,608) for the third most in Chiefs history. ... Darrel Williams led the Chiefs in rushing (54 yards) and receiving (three catches for 60 yards).
Broncos NT Mike Purcell was a surprise inactive with a thumb injury.
Chiefs CB Chris Lammons left late in the first half with an ankle injury.
The Broncos host Detroit next Sunday. The Chiefs host Las Vegas the same day.