Here are 10 observations from Chiefs-Broncos on Sunday:
1. The Chiefs found another way to win
It wasn’t the prettiest start for the Chiefs on Sunday, which only adds to the impressive and growing resume that this team has consistently figured out ways to win even when things haven’t always perfectly lined up for them.
Early in the game, they actually found themselves trailing the Broncos by a score of 7-0 midway through the first quarter, which marked the first time in four home games that they had to play from behind at any point. There were dropped passes and multiple penalties that stalled the offense from really getting anything going.
It wasn’t until five minutes into the second quarter that the Chiefs grabbed a lead, which came after a 9-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce.
They wouldn’t trail the rest of the day.
The win gave the Chiefs a season-sweep over the Broncos and kept them as the AFC’s only 1-loss team through eight weeks. It’s impressive to see a team with such natural ability to put up yards and points really be able to overcome struggles, whether they’re self-inflicted or simply the result of the other team making plays.
There’s no panic with this team despite how shaky things might seem.
2. Dee Ford had a day to remember
Heading into Sunday’s game, Chiefs’ outside linebacker Dee Ford led all NFL edge rushers with 37 quarterback pressures through seven weeks, per Pro Football Focus.
He was already having a fantastic start to the season, but Sunday was perhaps the best game of the five-year veterans’ career.
Ford finished with three sacks and two forced fumbles.
What’s more impressive is that the plays also came in some of the games’ biggest moments, which made the display that much better.
Ford’s first sack came midway through the second quarter with the Chiefs holding a 10-7 lead and the Broncos sitting at midfield and facing a third-and-8. The sack resulted in a loss of 12 yards and the Broncos were forced to punt it back to the Chiefs.
On the Chiefs’ ensuing offensive drive, they’d find the end zone as Mahomes would find Sammy Watkins for the first of his two touchdowns of the day on a 13-yard pass across the middle.
The other two sacks from Ford came in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were trying to hold onto a 10-point lead.
Earlier this week, Ford gave a lot of credit to Chiefs’ outside linebackers’ coach Mike Smith for working with him this season and helping him develop a plan of attack each week.
And it seems to be working.
Ford’s previous career-high in sacks was back in 2016 when he finished with 10, and he now has 8 as we sit at the halfway point of the season.
3. Tanoh Kpassagnon’s second-quarter tackle-for-loss was the key turning point
After the game, there were several Chiefs’ defensive players (as well as coach Reid) who mentioned that second-year player Tanoh Kpassagnon’s tackle-for-loss in the second quarter was really the turning point in the game.
At the time, the Chiefs were trailing 7-3 and the Broncos were facing a third-and-2 from the Chiefs’ 31-yard line, which was well within easy field goal range for the Broncos’ strong-legged kicker, Brandon McManus. The Broncos had an opportunity to really extend their lead and put the Chiefs’ backs even further against the wall.
The Broncos attempted a misdirection play to the outside, which Kpassagnon admitted after the game that he had been prepped for during the week, and he stepped up and made a shoestring tackle for a loss of six yards.
Just like that, the Broncos were forced to attempt a 55-yard field goal, which McManus pushed to the right for his first missed field goal of the season.
The Chiefs’ offense used that momentum-changing play and went 55 yards on four plays and got into the end zone on Mahomes’ 9-yard pass to Kelce, which gave the Chiefs the lead at 10-7, and a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
The energy transferred over to his defensive teammates as on the Broncos’ ensuing offensive drive, that’s when Ford picked up his first sack of the game on third-and-8.
It all started with Kpassagnon’s tackle-for-loss.
4. Patrick Mahomes caught fire in the second quarter
After beginning the game 5 of 9 for 51 yards through the first quarter of play, Mahomes caught fire in the second quarter—demonstrating the kind of ability we’ve come to now expect from the 23-year-old first-year starter.
Mahomes went 8 for 8 for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter—helping give the Chiefs a 16-14 halftime lead.
He finished the game 24 of 34 for 303 yards with four touchdowns and an interception—becoming the first quarterback since Peyton Manning back in 2004 to have three-straight games with at least four touchdown passes.
It was Mahomes’ 40-yard strike to Tyreek Hill on a slant route on second-and-9 on the drive following Kpassagnon’s big tackle that was really the momentum-changing play for the offense. They were in the end zone two plays later.
5. Kareem Hunt did it again
If there was any question about whether or not Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid had confidence in his patchwork offensive line, which had new faces at both center (Austin Reiter, second career start) and right guard (Andrew Wylie, second career start), that was answered when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Broncos’ 23-yard line midway through the third quarter.
At the time, the Chiefs held a 23-14 lead and Reid showed trust in his guys by calling a fake-option, shovel-pass along the interior of the offensive line to running back Kareem Hunt, who showed us the same kind of effort that he did last week on his ridiculous run against the Bengals as he broke multiple tackles, then jumped over a would-be tackler before landing and then basically carrying a Broncos’ defensive back into the end zone for a 23-yard score.
It was another highlight-reel play from the league’s reigning rushing champion. He finished with 86 total yards and the one touchdown.
6. Sammy Watkins leads Chiefs’ receivers on the day
It was the best game of the season for Chiefs’ receiver Sammy Watkins, who finished with eight catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Watkins has developed a reputation for “running angry” as he has proven to be difficult to tackle in the open field, and he’s been difficult to cover in the red zone as well.
When the Chiefs signed him to a lucrative contract this past offseason, the one thing that was consistently said about him was his ability to make plays in tight quarters inside the red zone, and that was on display Sunday afternoon as both of his scores came inside the Broncos’ 20-yard line.
The first came on a nice play design in which he was matched up with a linebacker across the middle, which made for an easy read for Mahomes, and the second came on a little crosser in which he was able to accelerate up the field and get a nice block out on the edge from Hunt to find his way into the end zone.
It was the fifth game of Watkins’ career in which he went for over 100 yards and had a couple of touchdowns.
7. Chris Jones, Breeland Speaks also chip in with sacks
In addition to Ford’s big day, the Chiefs also got big-time plays from Chris Jones and Breeland Speaks. Each player chipped in with a sack and Speaks was able to recover a fumble on one of Ford’s three sacks.
Jones’ sack came early in the third quarter on a third-and-9 and was one of the plays that really helped the Chiefs take control of the game because the Broncos’ punt on fourth down would go for just 22 yards, and the Chiefs would find the end zone four plays later on the Hunt fourth-down “reception.”
8. Kendall Fuller gets his first interception with the Chiefs
Early in the fourth quarter with the defense trying to protect a 10-point lead, the time had come for cornerback Kendall Fuller to make his first game-changing play in a Chiefs’ uniform.
With the Broncos facing a first-and-10 from midfield, Case Keenum attempted a flea-flicker and tossed one in the direction of Fuller, who laid-out in front of the receiver along the sideline and was able to make a fantastic catch for the interception.
It was Fuller’s first interception with the Chiefs and one of two turnovers forced by the Chiefs’ defense in the final 15 minutes of the game.
9. Austin Reiter slides in to start along the offensive line and Chiefs’ offense still moves forward
The Chiefs are dealing with some injuries up front and the season debut of center Austin Reiter pretty much went without any major problems for the offense.
Reiter joined the Chiefs the first week of September, and six weeks later after injuries to both Mitch Morse and then Jordan Devey, the Chiefs found themselves on their third starting center in eight games, and Reiter helped orchestrate a Chiefs’ offense to 30 points and 340 total yards of offense.
While it wasn’t a perfect performance (and nothing ever really is), Reiter’s ability to step in there and run the offense well enough for the Chiefs to pick up a key division win shouldn’t go unnoticed.
10. Anthony Hitchens and two others leave early with injuries
The Chiefs lost three players to injuries Sunday afternoon.
“As far as the injuries go, [wide receiver] Tyreek [Hill] strained his groin, and we will just see how he does here,” Reid said after the game. “[Linebacker] Frank Zombo tweaked his left hamstring, and we will just see how he does over the next little bit.
“[Linebacker] Anthony Hitchens got hit in the ribs with a helmet, so we will see how he does as we go forward. [I don’t have anything] to announce on those things now.”
Safety Eric Berry (heel), linebacker Justin Houston (hamstring) and center Mitch Morse (concussion) also didn’t suit up on Sunday as they recover from various injuries.
Photos from the Chiefs Week 8 matchup against the Broncos