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Instant reactions: Broncos lose heartbreaker to Chiefs

The Denver Broncos lost a heartbreaker to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football by a score of 30-27. The loss places the Broncos firmly in third place in the AFC West and has them on the outside looking in concerning the AFC playoff race.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you were looking for a game that would cause you to scream, pull your hair and end up having you cry infinite tears of sadness — the Denver Broncos 30-27 overtime loss against the Kansas City Chiefs was the Sunday Night Football extravaganza was the right match for you.

Just when it seemed like the Broncos' offense did enough to win the team the game, everything seemed to go wrong in the final moments of regulation, which propelled both teams into an overtime battle that ended up in a heartbreaker for the Broncos.

With their loss tonight, Denver's dream of a sixth straight AFC West title is almost gone, and they will have to string together a series of wins the last five games and hope other teams lose in order to make it to earn a wild card birth in the playoffs.

The weeks come and go, but the constant in regard to the Broncos' every single game is how poorly they start on offense. The Broncos had three drives in the opening quarter, but were only able to amass a measly 38 yards of total offense on ten plays. Their offensive line couldn't run block to save their lives, and on multiple occasions, failed to convert third-and-short situations that should be easily obtainable.

On the bright side, the Broncos' defense stepped up to the challenge and held Kansas City's "dink and dunk" offense in check for the entire quarter. Alex Smith, better known as Captain Checkdown, wasn't able to connect on many throws to his receivers and their rushing offense was held in check when it mattered most.

With their opening possession of the second quarter, Denver's offense started to move the chains, but their hopes of registering a complete drive that finished in a score were vanquished by Justin Houston — who eviscerated second-year offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo on national television for multiple sacks.

Sambrailo's terrible performance on that drive promptly led to him being benched in favor of Donald Stephenson, who has hasn't been much better at right tackle for the course of the season.  Unfortunately, when the front office fails to make adequate investments in the off-season and can't develop talent at the position, this is the sort of predicament they willfully find themselves in.

After stopping the Chiefs on their first possession of the second quarter, it all started to go downhill for Denver.  In a span of two plays, the allowed a safety courtesy of you guessed it -- Justin Houston and the ensuing kick-off was returned by Tyreek Hill all the way to give Kansas City a nine point lead in less than thirty seconds.

With their backs against the wall, the Broncos took the field once more with just minutes to go in the second quarter and finally started to show a modicum of efficacy.  They moved the ball down the field into the red zone, but Trevor Siemian wasn't able to connect on several attempts to his receivers that stalled the drive and forced the Broncos to rely on Brandon McManus to get them on the board with a 33 yard field goal.

With under two minutes to go in the first half, the Chiefs had a chance to finally score some points on offense, but those dreams were thwarted by All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller, who devoured Smith for one and a half sacks and forced the Chiefs to yet another three-and-out.  Unfortunately, Denver couldn't muster any success after the defense gave them an opportunity, and the team jogged into the locker room down 9-3 at halftime.

It's clear that the defense did their part to help the team out in every way imaginable, but the lack of execution on offense and special teams was clearly the Broncos' bane in the first half.  This tweet pretty much reinforces that sentiment to a T.

The Broncos needed some fire coming out of halftime and that's exactly what the defense provided.  Once more, the dink and dunk offense of the Chiefs failed to register anything meaningful, and Denver's ferocious play on the defensive side of the ball helped give the ball back to the Broncos' offense very quickly.  But could the Broncos' offense deliver?


The offense took the ball the length of the field on a 12 play, 63 yard drive that ended in a miraculous Houdini-esque scramble by Siemian which allowed him to connect with Jordan Taylor in the end zone for a six yard touchdown pass.  Just like that, the Broncos were on top of the Chiefs 10-9 with a quarter and a half left to go.

Alas, the Broncos' lead would be short-lived, as the Chiefs were able to take their next possession all the way down the field and score on a unique play.  Out of the wildcat formation, Spencer Ware was able to dish the ball to Hill on the outside for a touchdown scamper, putting the Chiefs up by a score of 16-10 as the third quarter came to a close.

The Broncos' incompetence on offense reared its ugly head once more, and the Broncos were forced into another three-and-out and the Chiefs acquired the ball once more just seconds into the fourth quarter.  Unlike the prior possession, the defense found the tone they had set all night and were able to force Kansas City into another three-and-out.

Unfortunately, luck wasn't in the Broncos' favor as Jordan Norwood muffed the punt return and allowed the first turnover of the game.  The Chiefs weren't able to take advantage of the situation, and another sack of Smith by Miller sent the dink and dunk offense to the sidelines once more, giving the equally horrendous offense of the Broncos another chance at redemption to try and take the lead late in the game.

Redemption was quickly found. Siemian was able to connect with Emmanuel Sanders on a beautiful 64 yard bomb that got the Broncos into scoring position.  After a fifteen yard penalty on Head Coach Gary Kubiak for impeding an official's progress on the sideline, Siemian connected with Sanders once more for a 35 yard catch and run that gave Denver a 17-16 lead with half a quarter left to play.

To keep the Chiefs at bay, it would be up to Denver's dominant defense once more.  They didn't disappoint.  Kansas City wasn't able to do anything with the following possession, and the Broncos quickly got the ball back, albeit deep in their own territory at the five yard line.

With the pressure mounting, Siemian was able to hit A.J. Derby for thirteen yards on third down to continue the Broncos' drive and burn more time off the clock.  But it didn't stop there for Denver — on third and short Siemian lofted up a pass that was caught by Bennie Fowler who beat Philip Gaines deep and took it all the way for a 76 yard touchdown score to give the Broncos a 24-16 lead with just three minutes remaining in the game.

But the Chiefs wouldn't go away quietly, and with one second left to go on the game clock, Tyreek Hill was able to reel in a touchdown pass in front of Bradley Roby to bring the game within two points.  A successful two-point conversion attempt was necessary to tie the game and send it into overtime, and the Chiefs did just that.  At the end of regulation, the score was tied 24-24 and it would take extra time to settle this epic AFC West rivalry game.

Denver got the first crack at it in overtime, and was able to march down the field with ease, only to fizzle when it mattered most.  Fortunately, McManus was able to connect (just barely) on a 44 yard field goal to give the Broncos a three point lead 27-24.  If the defense could hold, the Broncos would be on their way to victory. 

Much to the chagrin of Broncos Country, the Chiefs were able to formulate a strong drive of their own and Cairos Santos was able to connect from 37 yards to tie the game 27-27.

The next possession, the Broncos weren't able to get far, but far enough to have McManus attempt a kick from 62 yards out that hooked wide left.  That gave the Chiefs a short field and with five seconds left to go, the improbable happened when Santos' kick hit the left upright, but angled in through the posts to give Kansas City a 30-27 victory on Sunday Night Football.

With the loss, the Broncos drop to 7-4 and third place in the AFC West.  They have little shot at winning the division and are now on the outside looking in concerning the AFC playoff picture.

Hart's Quick Hits

  • If it isn't clear to the Broncos' coaching staff right now, let me give them a little advice:  Ty Sambrailo has no business wearing a uniform.  Core strength and leverage were issues of his coming out of Colorado State, and it is woefully clear that he is a former shell of himself after suffering a torn labrum that ended his season last year. 

    He doesn't engage opposing lineman or linebackers off the edge.  He has no initial punch. His form and technique are terrible and above all else, unacceptable.  Chalk up Sambrailo as another one of Elway's long line of second-round busts.  Scouting and furthermore developing offensive lineman worthy of a roster spot is clearly an issue this franchise has.  There needs to be a period of deep reflection in that regard this off-season if the Broncos want any chance at getting better in their offensive trenches in 2017.
  • I was in favor of Kubiak's decision to let McManus to attempt the game-winning field goal near the end of overtime.  It was a risky proposition, but it showed guts and the killer instinct the team needed in order to better themselves in regard to the playoff hunt.  Yeah, the decision backfired, but I believe he did make the right call.
  • Trevor Siemian had quite the game.  I was impressed with his performance: 20/34 passing, 368 yards and three touchdowns. The team had a shot to win because of him, but unfortunately, in a rare happenstance, the Broncos' defense failed to shut down the Chiefs' offense when it mattered most.  Siemian deserves credit for making some big plays this game, and the Broncos' defense shoulders a large amount of the burden in the loss.
  • DeMarcus Ware's sack of Alex Smith in the fourth quarter tied him with Richard Dent and John Randle for eighth all-time with 137.5 total sacks.
  • Von Miller was arguably the best player on the field for Denver tonight, registering 10 tackles and three sacks.  He should be at the top of the list regarding NFL Defensive MVP honors for his play this season.
  • The Chiefs were 5/17 on third downs, a paltry 27 percent conversion rate.  It's extremely rare that a team who does that bad on third downs ends up winning the game, but tonight was an exception to the rule.
  • Denver had 15 penalties for 97 yards.  That lack of discipline is totally inexcusable and unacceptable, especially after an extra week of preparation.
  • The team was able to register 124 yards on the ground, but a lowly 3.3 yard per carry average isn't good enough to get it done in the NFL.  The team desperately needs improvements on the offensive line, and dare I say the Broncos should dabble and use a Top 100 selection on another back in the upcoming class?  It's a good one and I believe the Broncos would be wise to do so.