Sometimes winning takes more composure than talent. That was the case for the Denver Broncos on Sunday as they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 17-9 to match their win total from last season. Perhaps the leftover Turkey Day gravy sunk to the feet, or maybe the team took some pity on the 1-9 Chiefs. Either way, the Broncos looked uncharacteristically sleepy in Kansas City, but still pulled out the big division win.
In a game where Broncos’ starting running back Willis McGahee was missing, former first round draft pick and scout team extraordinaire, Knowshon Moreno, made good on his opportunity. He had 20 carries for 85 yards, and 4 receptions for 26 yards after being inactive for the past eight weeks. The Broncos made out well on his young rested legs as we saw more of Moreno than we usually see of McGahee. Ronnie Hillman was the only other Broncos’ back to get a carry, and he had just 3 carries.
On the other side of the running game, the Chiefs opened the game with their bread and butter. They had 62 rushing yards in the first quarter alone, and finished the game with 148 yards on the ground. Their legs may churn, but the offense stalls when it comes time to putting points up on the board. The Chiefs managed just three field goals all game, which is how the Broncos stayed in it despite their struggling offense.
Peyton Manning went 22-for-37 for 285 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. The first touchdown came on a 7-yard pass to tight end Jacob Tamme which was Manning’s 25th touchdown pass of the season. Manning has had at least 3,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns in 14 of his NFL seasons which is the most in NFL history.
The second of Manning’s touchdown passes came on a 30-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas late in the third quarter to give the Broncos a 14-9 lead. Thomas had 4 catches for 82 yards which gives him the first 1,000 yard receiving season in his pro career.
After missing two field goals in the game, kicker Matt Prater drove through a 34-yard kick to put the game out of reach for the Chiefs as time was winding down. Prater has missed a field goal in each of his last three games after not missing one in the first eight games of the season.
Ranked first in the league in turnovers, the Chiefs surprisingly didn’t turn the ball over until the final play of the game when Brady Quinn heaved a pass into the arms of safety David Bruton. Quinn ended the day 13-for-25 for 126 yards.
It was a relatively rather quiet day for the Broncos’ defense who tallied just two sacks. Wesley Woodyard led the team in tackles with 7 and contributed one of those sacks which prevented a long field goal attempt, forcing the Chiefs to punt. That was Woodyard’s fourth sack of the season which makes him one of four Broncos players with 4 sacks and 3 interceptions in one season. Champ Bailey also held Dwayne Bowe to 4 catches for 41 yards.
In the NFL, a win doesn’t have to be pretty or even thrilling. It goes into the record book all the same.
It’s a good sign when the Broncos can come out flat, put just 17 points up on the board (they put up at least 30 points for the past five weeks), and still win in Kansas City where the sea of red can swallow any team even if their own is 1-9. There’s no such thing as the Arrowhead Advantage this year.
Winning while not playing up to your potential is the best Thanksgiving weekend blessing the Broncos could ask for.