For the tenth time in a row, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos, this time it was a 43-16 blowout on a snowy day at Mile High Stadium. Coming off a two game win streak, the Broncos fall to 2-4 after they were unable to beat their division rival and reigning Super Bowl Champions. The defense did all they could to slow down Patrick Mahomes, but were let down by the offense and special teams. Let’s get into how the game unraveled for the Broncos in this week’s post-game recap.
Coming into this game, everyone knew the Broncos offense would have to play at its best to give the team a fighter’s chance. Well, right out of the gates the Broncos had a three-and-out after going backwards three yards. Not the fast start we were hoping for. As expected, the Super Bowl champs marched down the field for a touchdown. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire delivered the final blow on the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. Edwards-Helaire broke multiple tackles on the run and waltzed into the endzone to put the Chiefs up 7-0.
The Broncos were forced to quickly punt again after another three-and-out. However, the defense forced a turnover on the Chiefs first play. Linebacker Alexander Johnson ripped the ball out from TE Nick Keizer and CB Bryce Callahan came sliding in to recover the loose ball. The Broncos capitalized on the turnover and found the endzone just four plays later. Drew Lock kept the ball on a read option and ran it in for his first career rushing touchdown. Unfortunately, Brandon McManus missed the extra point keeping the Chiefs up 7-6.
After the Broncos touchdown, the Chiefs offense worked their way down the field. A Bradley Chubb sack on third down stopped the drive and forced the Chiefs to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Harrison Butker making it a 10-6 game. With the Broncos within a possession, Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball away on the 50 yard line. Once again, the defense came up with a big sack on third down, this time it was Dre’Mont Jones forcing Kansas City to punt.
The Broncos were finding success running the ball with Phillip Lindsay, who left with concussion like symptoms, on their next drive. However, Drew Lock threw an interception to Daniel Sorensen, who took it all the way to the house for a pick six. A Butker extra point made it 17-6 with just over nine minutes left in the half. The Broncos were able to move the ball again, but couldn’t finish the drive and needed a 43-yard field goal from McManus to make it 17-9.
Then in a matter of seconds the Chiefs returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards and were up 24-9. Byron Pringle went untouched right through the Broncos porous kickoff coverage for the score. This seemed to be the turning point in the game after a couple of punts led us to halftime.
The Broncos defense forced a three and out to start the second half. However, another Gordon fumble gave the Chiefs the ball and the momentum yet again. Some stingy defense kept Kansas City out of the endzone, but allowed a 31-yard field goal from Butker.
Down 27-9, the Broncos were in desperation mode. They drove the ball for more than 30 yards, but were unable to keep the drive alive after a failed fourth down conversion. Rookie WR KJ Hamler was a couple yards shy of getting the first down and keeping the offense on the field.
The Chiefs turned around and cashed in another Butker field goal, this time from 26-yards, for a 30-9 lead late in the third quarter. With Lock pressing for the big play, he threw his second interception of the day. This time it was All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu with the pick. After six plays, Patrick Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill for his lone touchdown of the day.
With the game was all but over, the Broncos kept fighting. A nine play, 75 yard drive was capped off by a Gordon touchdown run from three yards out. The touchdown made it a 37-16 game with just under seven minutes left. Backup Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne took over for their final drive after a failed onside kick. Henne ran for a one-yard touchdown to put the finishing touches on a 43-16 blow-out.
The Broncos were beat in all three phases of the game after a promising win last week against the Patriots. Kansas City made it very clear that they still dominate the AFC West, and will for years to come. The game drops the Broncos to 2-4 and boosts the Chiefs to 5-1 in 2020.
While this was an ugly blow-out loss, there were some positives to take away. We also know that there’s a lot of work to still be done for this Denver team to compete. As we do every week, let’s get into my 10 takeaways from the game:
The Gap Is Still Large:
The Kansas City Chiefs have been the Broncos proverbial measuring stick for quite some time now. It’s no secret that the Broncos are trying to assemble a team that can beat the reigning champs. You can see shades of the Chiefs blueprint from the speed, big armed QB, and TE mismatches that this Denver team has instilled during the rebuild. While a lot of those factors have yet to fully play out, you can sense the direction John Elway wants to take this team. Well, after squaring off again it’s obvious which AFC West team is superior and the gap between the two still looms large. Kansas City has beaten the Broncos 10 straight games now and a lot of those games haven’t even been close. The Broncos will get another chance to measure their progress when they go to Arrowhead on December 6th.
Phillip Lindsay is RB1:
For the first time since the season opener, we had Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon on the same game-day roster. Lindsay was coming off of a 101 yard game while Gordon missed last week with strep throat. While the writing was on the wall, this game confirmed that Lindsay is the best running back on the Broncos. The Colorado Kid had 79 rushing yards on just nine attempts before leaving with concussion like symptoms. Compare that with Gordon’s 68 yards on 17 attempts and it becomes pretty clear who is the RB1. Then if you add in that Gordon fumbled twice on Sunday and Lindsay has yet to fumble in the NFL, it makes you wonder why Gordon is being paid more (signed a two-year $16 million contract this offseason). Broncos Country can only hope that Lindsay can return quickly, and Gordon learns how to hold onto the ball.
Drew Lock Has Work To Do:
Lock was off in this game. He was missing his mark on throws all day long, but the biggest red-flag was the decision making. There were countless times that Lock decided to take a shot downfield when he had something wide open in the flats or underneath. The second year QB seemed to be pressing in this contest and it hurt the Broncos. Not to mention he threw two more interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. I do still believe in Lock, but he has a lot of work to do. He hasn’t even started a full 16-games yet, so I’m not ready to panic but it feels like he has regressed with this new system. I hope that I’m wrong and Lock comes out firing like we all know he can next week.
Turnovers = Losing Football:
Piggybacking on Lock and his two interceptions, the Broncos turned the ball over a total of five times on Sunday. If you lose the turnover battle, you tend to lose the game. When you get blown out in the turnover battle, you tend to get blown out in the game. The two interceptions were paired with the two Gordon fumbles and a turnover on downs. Three of those turnovers led to 17 total points for the Chiefs. The Broncos need to take better care of the ball if they want to win some more games. It’s that simple.
Chiefs Are Too Good For Our Bad Mistakes:
It’s nearly impossible to win games when the other team scores 14 points without their offense even being on the field. It’s even harder when it’s the Chiefs getting those 14 points without their deadly offense. Between the five turnovers and the botched kick return, the Broncos set themselves up for failure it this game. They continue to shoot themselves in the foot. If you were to take away those six bad plays, then the Broncos are competing in this game. I mean a butchered flea flicker attempt where Gordon fired an erratic pitch back to Lock for the turnover sums up this game quite well. I’m not saying they would have won, but they certainly wouldn’t have lost by 27 points. A young team needs to figure these issues out and the Broncos are learning that carefree football is costly.
The Defense Was Let Down:
Looking at this final score, most people will probably assume that the Chiefs dynamic offense torched the Broncos defense. Well, this loss certainly doesn’t fall on the defense. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes was sacked three times and didn’t throw a touchdown pass until late in the fourth quarter. Not only did they disrupt Mahomes, but they also forced a turnover and Kansas City was 0-8 on third-down attempts. The offense and special teams let down their defense today in what could have been a statement game.
Chubb and Reed Are Cooking Right Now:
When Von Miller went down with his injury, everyone turned to Malik Reed and Bradley Chubb to step up. Well, that tandem has done just that. They have a combined six sacks over the last two games. Reed has registered two straight multi-sack games and has 4.0 sacks on the season. Chubb has slowly been returning to form and has 4.5 sacks on the season. For the last few weeks the Broncos have relied on blitzing to bring pressure, but they mostly counted on their newfound duo this week and it paid off. Even on a bleak day, Reed and Chubb were bright spots for the Broncos.
Garrett Bolles Top LT In The NFL?:
Speaking of bright spots, I need to continue praising Garrett Bolles. His turnaround this season has been nothing short of amazing. According to Pro Football Focus, Bolles is the highest graded tackle in the NFL right now with a grade of 91.2 through seven weeks. I don’t think anyone in Broncos Country was expecting this kind of performance from him, especially after the Broncos declined his fifth year option. After years of hearing “holding, number 72” ringing around Mile High, Bolles has been a very pleasant surprise this season. Bolles is going to get a lot of money this offseason if he can keep up this level of play.
Another Special Teams Disaster:
A common theme in my post-game reviews is the poor play of the special teams unit. Well, this week was no different. After McManus went 6/6 last week and earned AFC Player of the Week honors, he shanked the extra point early in the game. Luckily, that didn’t come back to haunt the Broncos, but it is worth noting. The real miscue was on the 102 kickoff return. Pringle wasn’t even touched on the return as the coverage completely collapsed on the ball. That play was the turning point in this game. The Broncos had just made it a one possession game and had some momentum, just to see their hard work vanish in a flash. Special teams continues to be a thorn in the Broncos side and has been an issue all year long. Don’t be surprised if Special Teams Coach Tom McMahon is looking for another job at the end of this year.
The Road Ahead:
The Broncos have put themselves in quite the hole with a 2-4 record. That being said, it is still possible for them to climb out and compete for a playoff spot this year. Next week, the 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers come to Denver. Rookie QB Justin Herbert has impressed, but this divisional game is a big test for both clubs. Then, the 1-6 Atlanta Falcons are on the schedule. There is a chance that the Broncos can get to 4-4 midway through the season. They would then face the now 3-3 Raiders and 3-3 Dolphins. These next few weeks will likely determine if the Broncos are going to be competing for the playoffs or for a high draft selection.
BONUS: Another Injury Strikes:
As I was writing this week’s review and recap, it was reported that defensive lineman Mike Purcell will miss the rest of the season after suffering a Lisfranc injury. Purcell was the main cog in the run game and will be surely missed. Dre’Mont Jones and Demarcus Walker will both need to step up in his place. It will be interesting to see how Alexander Johnson plays vs the run without Purcell too. Hear’s to wishing Purcell a speedy recovery.