The Kansas City Chiefs held on to defeat the Denver Broncos, 27-24, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon it what marked their 13th win of the season and a 15th consecutive victory over their longtime rival.
The win also meant that Kansas City kept pace with the Buffalo Bills for the top record in the AFC prior to the Bills' matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, keeping the Chiefs' pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the conference alive.
That result was hardly a guarantee through much of Sunday's matchup, however, as the Broncos fought valiantly in interim Head Coach Jerry Rosburg's first game at the helm. In fact, Denver had an opportunity to either tie or even take the lead with just under four minutes remaining in regulation.
The Broncos were trailing by just three points and had possession of the ball at midfield, but facing a 4th-and-2, Chiefs' defensive lineman Chris Jones blew up the play and flipped possession back to Kansas City's offense. The game wasn't quite over at that point, as the Broncos still had all three of their timeouts, but Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes went on to connect with tight end Travis Kelce to move the chains on third down and seal the win.
It concluded what was at times a frustrating game for Kansas City, but a win nonetheless.
"We battled through…The defense played their tail off. We put them in a lot of bad situations, and they kept making stops, especially in that second half," Mahomes said. "I feel like I didn't play at the top of my game today, and I thought guys around me stepped up, so that's the best thing I took from it. I'm not always going [at the top of my game], and when guys around me step up and we can still win football games, it's a good sign."
Indeed, the Chiefs persevered through numerous instances of adversity on Sunday in the form of two turnovers, a missed field goal and a stretch of three-straight three-and-outs during the third quarter. Those struggles would sink most teams, but Kansas City managed to find a way despite the efforts of a hungry opponent playing with nothing to lose.
That adversity was perhaps at its peak midway through the third quarter, when Broncos' quarterback Russell Wilson found tight end Albert Okwuegbunam for a 25-yard touchdown to provide Denver with a 17-13 lead.
The two teams then traded punts before Mahomes engineered a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended with a 17-yard, go-ahead touchdown strike to tight end Blake Bell. It was the first-career regular-season touchdown for Bell, who was appearing in just his second game of the season after suffering a hip injury in August.
"It was a long journey [back]," Bell said. "I'm trying to get better each week and kind of knock the rust off, but I'm just happy to be out there with my boys and back in the locker room."
The score put Kansas City ahead by three points, and just one snap later, Chiefs' cornerback L'Jarius Sneed intercepted Wilson and returned the football deep into Broncos' territory. The Chiefs then cashed in on the takeaway a bit later when Mahomes found tailback Jerick McKinnon for a 3-yard touchdown.
It was the second score of the day for McKinnon, who also caught a touchdown late in the first half. The veteran tailback now has at least one touchdown grab in each of his last five games, marking the longest streak by a running back in the Super Bowl Era. Additionally, his eight receiving scores this season lead all running backs.
"I think [it's just] the fact that he's able to be in the right spot at the right time whenever I need to hit a check down," Mahomes said of McKinnon. "I can get it to him, and then he makes the most of it by getting into the endzone. It's cool to see because he just does his job. I think that's the biggest thing is he does his job to the best of his ability – if that's protecting, if that's running the route, [or] running the football."
McKinnon's efforts on his second touchdown – which took place on third down – pushed the Chiefs' advantage to 10 points, and while Denver pulled within three points in the game's closing minutes, Kansas City never relinquished the lead.
Mahomes completed 29-of-42 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, hitting the 5,000-yard and 40-touchdown marks for the second time in his career. He's just the second quarterback in NFL history to achieve that feat in multiple seasons, joining Drew Brees.
The 27-year-old Mahomes now has 5,377 combined passing and rushing yards this season, tallying the fourth-most total yards for any player in league history. Mahomes needs just 186 yards next week to claim the all-time NFL record.
Defensively, the Chiefs held Denver to just 3-of-12 on third down while racking up four sacks. The first of those sacks was recorded by defensive end George Karlaftis, who now has five sacks in his last six games. Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie also tallied a sack a bit later in the contest, stripping the ball from Wilson late in the first half.
In terms of injuries, Head Coach Andy Reid mentioned offensive guard Joe Thuney (ankle) and wide receiver Skyy Moore (laceration on his hand) following the game. Reid added that Thuney will get an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.
The Chiefs will now prepare for the regular-season finale this upcoming Saturday with a road trip to Las Vegas on deck.