KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs won their 16th straight matchup against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, 19-8. The Kansas City defense almost handed Broncos coach Sean Payton his first career shutout before quarterback Russell Wilson and the Broncos found the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce made another convincing case to be the Chiefs’ Most Valuable Player.
Kelce was instrumental in the Chiefs winning their 16th straight game against the Broncos, catching 9 passes for 124 yards in a 19-8 victory. Kelce played despite a heavily taped right ankle that he injured in last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Mahomes was 7-of-7 for 109 yards in the first half throwing to Kelce as the Chiefs built a 13-0 lead. He was 8-of-16 for 53 yards throwing to other receivers in the first two quarters.
The Chiefs took a shutout into the fourth quarter for the second time this season, but lost it on Denver’s only touchdown with six minutes remaining.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Kelce was clocked at 17.75 mph on his 19-yard catch and run in the first half. While that’s not blazing for a lot of receivers, it’s not bad for a 260-pound, 34-year-old tight end with a heavily taped right ankle.
Troubling trend: Mahomes threw his fifth interception of the season when he had no one open. He forced a throw into coverage as a defender had him around his legs and Mahomes couldn’t step into the throw. He is on pace for 14 interceptions, which would top his career high of 13 in 2021.
Next game: vs. Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, Oct. 22)
Courtland Sutton goes up for incredible TD catch
Courtland Sutton hauls in the nice touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter for the Broncos.
Sean Payton got his first taste of the streak Thursday night.
That anchor every Denver Broncos head coach since Gary Kubiak has had tossed into their laps. From Vance Joseph to Vic Fangio to Nathaniel Hackett and now on to Payton.
The Chiefs beat the Broncos Thursday night in Arrowhead because the Chiefs always beat the Broncos in Arrowhead, in Denver and seemingly would beat them in Munich if the NFL asked them to play there.
That’s 16 in a row for Kansas City. And nothing may sum up the Broncos’ current lot in football life than the Chiefs and their 28-year-old quarterback completing pass after pass to their All-Pro tight end as the rest of the Chiefs’ supporting cast flourishes in the jetwash.
The Broncos actually wasted, especially over the first three quarters, a good effort from their beleaguered defense. But the Chiefs and Mahomes took short field after short field — their first five drives of the game started on the Chiefs’ 38-yard line or better — and cashed in just enough.
The Broncos were shut out for the first time since 2017 and Kelce even out-gained the Broncos in the first half — 109 yards to 94 yards.
The Chiefs don’t need to take their best shot to beat the Broncos any more, and it’s been that way for a long time.
Troubling trend: It is the non-playoff team Groundhog Day. When the offense plays reasonably well, the defense does not. When the defense plays better — as it did Thursday — the offense is a no-show. The Broncos have good halves but not good games, they have good moments, but not good days. The Broncos did not have 150 yards of offense halfway through the fourth quarter, their complementary football Payton has said they must find has not appeared in the now 1-5 start.
Biggest hole in the gameplan: As it has been for much of the season, rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. spends too much time on the sideline watching an offense that needs his explosiveness. Mims came into Thursday’s game leading the Broncos with a 24.6-yards-per-catch average. He has the team’s longest touchdown reception this season — 60 yards — longest punt and longest kickoff return. Yet over and over again the Broncos worked out of three-wide receiver sets that did not include him most of the time, especially in the first half when the Broncos’ defense had actually kept them in the game. Deep into the fourth quarter, Mims still had not had a target. Coming in, Mims had not played more than 21 snaps in any of the Broncos’ first five games and he had not played more than 17 snaps in four of those games.
QB breakdown: For much of the season, Wilson looked as if his comfort level in the offense was growing by the day. But that progress looked stymied this past Sunday in the loss to the New York Jets in a choppy 196-yard effort and Thursday against the Chiefs also had a 2022 feel to it. Wilson looked unsettled against the Chiefs as he had passes tipped, spun into trouble instead of away from it — two of the Chiefs’ three sacks before the end of the third quarter were on third down, another on a fourth-down attempt — and Wilson hadn’t cleared 60 yards passing by the time the fourth quarter began. Before a too-little, too-late flourish in the closing minutes that included a one-handed touchdown grab by Courtland Sutton, Wilson held the ball a little too long, like last year, and saw his footwork deteriorate as the pressure came. And Payton needs to stop that regression soon or the offense will continue to suffer.
Pivotal play: A pivotal two plays, really. Trailing just 10-0, with the ball on their own 44-yard line with 22 seconds left in the first half and a timeout still in hand, some points may have given them some much-needed momentum. No one will ever know, though, as Wilson took a sack for a 7-yard loss on third-and-5. Riley Dixon followed with a 29-yard punt and Broncos rookie cornerback Riley Moss was penalized for illegal touching, so the Chiefs ended up with the ball on the Broncos’ 39-yard line with two timeouts. One Mahomes completion and scramble later, Harrison Butker kicked a 60-yard field goal to end the half. A demoralizing field goal, a 13-0 Chiefs lead at half and the Broncos never really pushed back the rest of the night.
Next game: vs Packers (4:25 p.m. ET, Oct. 22)
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