It took a while before most fans began to believe we were seeing a championship team in the making in the 2015 Denver Broncos and early on we were mostly filled with worry over the lack of offense. In Week 1, the Broncos barely survived the Baltimore Ravens at home on a last second game-saving interception by Darian Stewart and they won despite not having a single offensive touchdown in the game.
They had a short week to figure things out too with an AFC West road showdown on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. On the Something Something Broncos podcast above, this was the first game we talked about from that storied 2015 season.
Winning in Arrowhead is never easy, but when you spot them a two touchdown lead in the first half it is usually impossible. However, Gary Kubiak let Peyton Manning out from under center and back into his normal shotgun late in the first half. That critical drive stopped the bleeding after Manning hit Emmanuel Sanders on a quick slant for the 16-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7.
Then the Broncos defense reared its ugly head two plays later with Aqib Talib making a flawless break on the ball to pick it off inside the red zone.
Four plays later, Manning would find Virgil Green open in the back of the end zone for the one-yard touchdown reception to tie the game up with less than a minute to go in the first half.
Being able to go into half time tied instead of down two touchdowns is a huge reason why this game wasn’t a blowout. The tone was set for a hard fought second half. Neither defense gave much of anything all through the third and most of the fourth quarters.
That all changed when the Chiefs got excellent field position after a poor punt and a holding penalty on David Bruton set them up at their own 39-yard line. Travis Kelce got loose on their second play of the drive for a 29 yard reception and the Broncos defense faltered against the run giving up a touchdown after four consecutive runs for 31 yards.
Down 24-17 with just over two and a half minutes to go in the game, most of us chalked things up to a loss here. Manning wasn’t Manning in 2015, but he was just enough of his old self to make you remember and on this final offensive drive he made us remember.
He marched the team down the field on a 10-play, 75 yard drive with big chunk passes of 22, 17, and 15 yards to set Denver up inside the red zone. With 40 seconds to go, he found Emmanuel Sanders again open over the middle where Manning fired in a bullet for the game-tying score.
With those of us watching on TV and those Chiefs fans in the stands thinking the game was headed to overtime, the Chiefs called a simple running play to chew up the clock. In hindsight, they should have just gone with the kneel down.
Jamal Charles took the hand-off outside and was hit by Stewart with Brandon Marshall coming in to punch the ball out of Charles’ hands. The ball bounced perfectly into a sprinting Bradley Roby who scooped and scored to put the dagger in the hearts of fans in Arrowhead.
With that amazing 31-24 road victory, the tone was set early for the Broncos who would streak to a 7-0 start. The offense continued to splutter, but the team had the belief they would find ways to keep winning and win is what they did.
What a fun game! We’ll continue with the 2015 season next week. We’ve got a total of six games from that season to cover for this “greatest games of the 2010s” series.