The 108th match between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs was one for the ages. A handful of lead changes in the first half. A two-score lead for the Broncos into the third quarter. Statistical domination for QB Alex Smith and the Chiefs, who outgained the Broncos in yardage and time of possession and third down conversions. And a 4th down, goal line stand.
Somehow, despite a cavalcade of errors and yards allowed, the Broncos defense held at the end. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton batted down a fourth-down Alex Smith pass, and the Broncos went on to win 24-17. The Broncos improved to 2-0 on the season.
It was a victory all too familiar for the Broncos, who "enjoyed" a similar nailbiting victory against the Colts a week ago.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos made it look easy on their first drive, speeding to an early 7-0 lead with a 48-yard Emmanuel Sanders reception and a photojournalist-destroying Julius Thomas four-yard touchdown pass.
(Death to photogs, via Deadspin)
The rest of the first half was similarly impressive. Manning led two touchdown drives of 75 ad 88 yards in the second quarter, capped with Demaryius Thomas' first score of 2014, and Manning's first TD toss to a wide receiver this year (all four of his previous touchdowns went to tight ends Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme).
Indeed, Manning was surgical in the first half.
Peyton Manning if 15 of 19 for 191 yards, 3TDs, 0 INTs, and a near-perfect 148.1 passer rating. #Broncos— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) September 14, 2014
But Alex Smith was surgical in the second half - particularly on third downs. The Broncos defense was dreadful against the Chiefs on third downs, allowing Kansas City to regularly convert from beyond 10 yards. Late in the 4th quarter, the Chiefs had successfully converted 11 of 15 third downs. If you include three Broncos defensive penalties (including an offsides penalty on Quanterus Smith that wiped out an Aqib Talib pick-six), the Broncos allowed the Chiefs to convert 14 of 18 third downs.
Alex Smith is 9-of-11 for 112 yds. & has 2 runs for 26 yds. on 3rd downs, & is 13-of-23 for 98 yds. & has 3 runs for 16 yds. on other downs.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 14, 2014
And just like in Week 1, Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense couldn't put an opponent away. Manning only threw for 51 yards in the second half with no touchdowns.
More game notes
- Emmanuel Sanders earned his first 100-yard game in his career with a team-high 108 yards on six catches.
- Montee Ball ran for 23 yards on 3rd and 24 in an impressive, tackle-breaking display. He converted the fourth down a play later and finished with a 5.0-yard average.
- Von Miller notched a sack to end the first half. DeMarcus Ware had a strip-sack in the fourth quarter that would have likely sealed the game, but the refs ruled it an incomplete pass. (Who was he throwing to, refs? Who was his intended receiver? Intentional grounding at the very least, maybe?)
- Jacob Tamme hauled in a Manning touchdown from the slot, replacing Wes Welker, who was still suspended Sunday.
- Andre "Bubba" Caldwell showed some skills in return duties, taking a Chiefs kickoff in the fourth quarter out of the end zone back 54 yards.
- Nate Irving led the team with 11 tackles (7 solo).
The Broncos will accept this win, but they won't be encouraged by it. The Chiefs outblocked the Broncos, outgained them, and beat them in the penalty department. The offense has to figure out how to keep its momentum in the second half of games, while the defense needs to be much, much more consistent at pressuring opposing passers and getting off the field on third downs.
But a win is a win is a win. Bring on 1-1 Seattle.