The Denver Broncos came into Arrowhead and showed their offense still had bite - enough to take out the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL's biggest rematch of 2013.
Unlike the first game, which saw the Broncos take a comfortable lead and win without big plays, Sunday's rematch featured turnovers, kick return touchdowns, and huge passes. Alex Smith and Peyton Manning both operated at a high level for their respective teams, with the Chiefs and Broncos combining for 900 yards.
However, the Broncos are used to winning shootouts - the Chiefs tend to lose in them. Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes - Eric Decker caught four of them - and the Denver Broncos defense came up with a late fourth quarter stop in the end zone to beat the Chiefs 35-28 in a memorable game in Kansas City in Week 13.
The Chiefs started the game marching right down the field, attacking newly-returned Champ Bailey with regularity and finding success. Ultimately their first drive stalled at the two-yard line, where Alex Smith threw an interception in the end zone to Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard. But a drive later, the Chiefs marched right back, ending with an Alex Smith touchdown to Junior Hemingway. Chiefs 7, Broncos 0.
Manning was intercepted early in Arrowhead, giving the Chiefs the ball on their 17-yard line on the third down throw (think of it as a punt), but began putting some offense together as the first quarter came to a close. Knowshon Moreno's third down screen
On the very first play of the second quarter, Peyton Manning hit Eric Decker deep for a 41-yard touchdown, making it Broncos 7, Chiefs 7.
But the Chiefs immediately responded when Knile Davis took the Matt Prater kickoff 107 yards back for a touchdown. The special teams play saw Davis outrun the likes of speedy Broncos Tony Carter and David Bruton. Chiefs 14, Broncos 7.
Then the momentum swung even more in the Chiefs' favor. A Peyton Manning interception (perhaps his worst throw of the year) gave the Chiefs another opportunity, and Kansas City took advantage. Smith hit TE Anthony Fasano for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Chiefs up big. Chiefs 21, Broncos 7.
Denver would answer before the half ended, again with Peyton Manning going deep to Eric Decker, this time for 42 yards to KC's 3-yard line. Three plays later, Manning hit Knowshon Moreno, who found paydirt. Broncos 14, Chiefs 21.
The teams traded punts, and the Broncos ran out the clock, before halftime.
Denver opened the second half facing 3rd and long when Manning hit Wes Welker for 20 yards with a beautiful throw. Then it was Montee Ball time, with the rookie running for 12 yards, eight yards, and four yards on consecutive runs (eight yard average). Manning finished off the Chiefs with a 37-yard toss to Eric Decker behind the Chiefs defense for a touchdown. Tie game. Broncos 21, Chiefs 21.
The momentum stayed in Denver's favor - and Eric Decker's - on their subsequent drive, set up largely by Demaryius Thomas' huge 77-yard grab behind the Chiefs secondary. Manning then hit Decker for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Broncos their first lead of the game. Broncos 28, Chiefs 21.
Eric Decker is outscoring the Chiefs by himself today. #DENvsKC pic.twitter.com/QSq1Pv2CCb— NFL (@nfl) December 1, 2013
The fourth quarter saw the Broncos score one more touchdown - by Eric Decker, you guessed it, Broncos 35 Chiefs 21 - but also saw the Chiefs storm back late. The first touchdown drive by the Chiefs was a long, brutal drive with three third down conversions and one fourth down conversion, eating up 7:44 of play clock, capped off with a one-yard Jamaal Charles run. Chiefs 28, Broncos 35.
With 6:32 left to play, Denver had the ball and the lead, yet they were unable to completely eat up the clock. Peyton Manning's offense stalled with 3:32 left to play, giving QB Alex Smith one more chance to tie the game. Smith and company started at their own eight yard line following a terrific punt by Britton Colquitt, but drove all the way down to Denver's 13-yard line. On 4th-and-4, Smith threw for Dwayne Bowe in the end zone, but Mike Adams stepped up and broke up the pass. Denver would hold on to win, 35-28.
Some other stats of note: both Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno had big plays, with the former averaging nine yards per carry (13 carries, 117 yards) and the latter leaving his mark in the passing game (72 yards receiving with a touchdown). Mike Adams and Chris Harris led the team in tackles with six apiece and had four pass break-ups between them. Peyton Manning's return to early season form saw him throw for 403 yards with a 118.2 passer rating.
The Broncos at 10-2 now have a stranglehold on first place in the AFC West, and remain atop the AFC overall with four games to play.