Denver Broncos: Quick reactions to gut-wrenching loss to Chiefs

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Head coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos reacts to a referee in the second half of a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 1, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 1: Head coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos reacts to a referee in the second half of a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on October 1, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos lost an absolute heartbreaker to the Kansas City Chiefs. How did it happen? Why did it happen? Who is to blame?

The Denver Broncos just lost an absolutely heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, devastating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chiefs fans soak it in because this loss is going to sting in Broncos Country pretty badly.

The Chiefs improved to 4-0 on the season while the Broncos dropped to 2-2, now in desperate need of a victory on Sunday afternoon in New York against the Jets. That was a game the Broncos were penciled in for a win before the season, but obviously, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL and they’re going to have to give the Jets their very best.

Before we move on to the Jets, let’s take a look at what went wrong for the Broncos in this game.

The Broncos had the Chiefs on the ropes throughout this game. They had a chance for a knockout punch late in the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and Kansas City bleeding a lot of clock with a long drive.

Even after a touchdown by the Chiefs to cut the Broncos’ lead to just three points, it really felt like Denver would just do what they had done all game and run the ball successfully. But that didn’t turn out to be the case.

For whatever reason, the Broncos didn’t have Andy Janovich and the power running crew that helped establish the 10-point lead in the first place out on the field when it came time to close the game, something that worked so well for them in their two victories.

Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay had run all over the Chiefs in this game, but after an unsuccessful first-down run play, the Broncos went to the air and Emmanuel Sanders was unable to get anything on second down. On third down, Case Keenum was forced out of the pocket, and ran out of bounds as the Broncos went three-and-out for the first time since the second quarter.

It was the worst possible time for a three-and-out as the Chiefs had just scored on a long touchdown drive, and the defense was obviously pretty gassed. After the three-and-out, Marquette King had an absolutely atrocious punt setting the Chiefs up near midfield.

It looked like the defense was about to get out of a tough situation with Kansas City committing some bad penalties, pushing them back to a 2nd-and-30 situation. On that particular play, Patrick Mahomes was able to weasel out of the pass rush and make a play 20-plus yards downfield, setting up another wild play. With Von Miller in full pursuit, Mahomes rolled to his left and flipped the ball into his off hand, pushing the ball ahead to a wide-open Tyreek Hill for a third-down conversion.

This sequence of two plays didn’t completely derail the Broncos, who then gave up a big play downfield to Demetrius Harris on a 3rd-and-7 but the Chiefs were able to snap the ball well after the play clock hit zero.

The Broncos would eventually allow a touchdown to Kareem Hunt to give the Chiefs their first lead since 10-3 in the first half.

With time on the clock to move the ball downfield, things started out really ugly for the Broncos’ offense. Case Keenum took a sack on second down to put the team in a 2nd-and-20 situation, and they ended up needing a fourth-down conversion from Emmanuel Sanders to keep the drive alive.

Keenum then hit Jeff Heuerman on an absolutely perfect ball down the middle of the field under heavy pressure, setting the Broncos up in legitimate scoring range. Two plays later, Keenum had Demaryius Thomas wide open against a cover two look from the Chiefs’ defense, but the ball as overthrown.

The Broncos tried a hook-and-latter on the last play of the game, but Courtland Sutton was unable to pitch the ball into the arms of Emmanuel Sanders, and the ball fell to the ground for what was called an incomplete pass.

In the end, Keenum’s inability to make a throw when Denver had a chance to run some time off the clock, instead going three-and-out, was a major turning point in this game and his inaccuracy on the throw to Demaryius Thomas is really unfortunate. It’s pretty harsh to say that’s what separates him from ‘great’ quarterbacks in the NFL, but it’s hard to imagine a player making $18 million per season missing that kind of a throw, regardless of the circumstances.

Keenum missed some plays in this game, the coaching staff didn’t have Royce Freeman (8.4 yards per carry) touching the ball late in the game when he should have been, and the defense couldn’t take Patrick Mahomes down when they had so many chances.

The Broncos played a hard-fought game but Mahomes was too good and Denver just didn’t finish this one out.

We’ll see what the fallout of this is, but as was mentioned earlier on Monday, the first Broncos-Chiefs matchup has dictated who wins the AFC West over the past seven years.

This loss was just as heartbreaking as the one the Broncos dropped at home against the Chiefs in 2016, when they had a chance to move to 8-3 on the season but couldn’t close it out in overtime.

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Meanwhile, Case Keenum has not thrown a touchdown pass since week one and has six interceptions in four games.

Right now, Keenum is not elevating the Broncos’ level of play offensively, he’s the one holding the team back the most.