The Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Denver Broncos, 34-28, in a rollercoaster of a football game on Sunday that featured several swings in momentum and numerous unforgettable plays throughout.
Each team recorded a streak of 21 unanswered points at different times during the game, but it all came down to the Chiefs' final possession that began with just under five minutes remaining in regulation. Kansas City – which was clinging to a six-point advantage – managed to never relinquish possession of the ball for the remainder of the contest, tallying three first downs while running out the clock.
The drive featured a handful of clutch plays, including a 20-yard reception by wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling early in the possession that moved the chains on 3rd-and-11. Then, four snaps later, tailback Isiah Pacheco was responsible for a powerful, bruising run that picked up another first down and effectively ended the game.
Pacheco's run was particularly impressive considering the context of the moment, as Kansas City was facing a 2nd-and-10 immediately following the two-minute warning. Denver was out of timeouts and unable to stop the clock, creating an obvious running situation for the Chiefs that the Broncos had to stop if they wanted any chance of getting the ball back. In other words, the Broncos knew a Pacheco rush was coming, but the rookie tailback managed to pick up the game-sealing first down anyway.
It was a strong conclusion to a wild game that the Chiefs once led by 27 points, but despite some hiccups on offense that allowed Denver to get back into the game, Kansas City held on to lead the entire way.
"[It was] a heck of a football game," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "Nobody hung their head. Everybody kept battling, and we ended up finishing the game the right way."
It certainly didn't look like the Chiefs would require any fourth-quarter heroics early on, however, as Kansas City raced out to a 27-point lead prior to halftime. The Chiefs recorded field goals on each of their first two possessions before quarterback Patrick Mahomes added another entry into his seemingly endless reel of highlights with a no-look, underhand toss that tailback Jerick McKinnon hauled in and took for a 56-yard touchdown.
"I was committed to running, and then I saw that I was probably going to get hit, so I just kind of flicked it," Mahomes said. "I was just trying to get it to him any way possible, and he made a great play afterward. The guys made some blocks downfield, and he scored a touchdown."
McKinnon was then back in the end zone on the Chiefs' next possession with a 10-yard touchdown grab, and only mere moments later, linebacker Willie Gay picked off Broncos' quarterback Russell Wilson and brought it all the way back for a 47-yard score.
The game had the makings of a rout before the third quarter even began, but to their credit, the Broncos had no interest in giving up. Denver picked off Mahomes on each of the Chiefs' next two possessions and turned both into touchdowns, narrowing the deficit to just 13 points.
The Broncos then opened the third quarter with another score when tailback Marlon Mack turned a quick screen into a 66-yard touchdown dash, slashing Kansas City's previously enormous lead to only six points.
Mack's touchdown completed a stretch of 21 unanswered points that took place in less than four total minutes of game time, but Kansas City managed to maintain its composure with a nine-play, 72-yard touchdown series in the closing seconds of the third quarter. The scoring drive – which ended with a 4-yard pass to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on third down – extended the Chiefs' lead to 13 points, but it didn't last long.
The Broncos – who lost Russell Wilson to a concussion only five plays earlier – pulled within a single score yet again when backup quarterback Brett Rypien connected with wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for a 7-yard score on fourth down.
That's where the margin would remain for the rest of the game though, and despite two more offensive possessions for Denver, the Chiefs shut the door both times. It was part of a gritty defensive effort for Kansas City that the final score didn't do justice, as 14 of the Broncos' 28 points took place on short fields following interceptions. Kansas City also managed to rack up six sacks and two interceptions in the contest, the latter of which was hauled in by cornerback L'Jarius Sneed on what turned out to be Denver's final series.
It all helped the Chiefs tally their 10th win on the year, marking the eighth-consecutive season that Coach Reid has led Kansas City to 10 or more victories. It's the second-longest stretch by a head coach in NFL history. Additionally, the Chiefs have now won 14-straight games over Denver, amassing the fifth-longest streak for any team against a single opponent in league history.
Mahomes, meanwhile, moved to 25-3 vs. AFC West opponents in his career, including a 15-0 mark in road divisional games. Mahomes also topped 4,000 passing yards for the season in Sunday's victory, tallying his NFL-most fourth season with 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ passing touchdowns since 2018.
The 27-year-old Mahomes continues to lead the league in passing yards (4,160) and passing touchdowns (33) through 13 games, and while Sunday marked just the third three-interception game of his brilliant career, Coach Reid emphasized that Mahomes' mixed performance can be a learning experience.
"Every quarterback who has played in this league a while is going to have a game like that," Reid said. "The great thing about him is that he kept firing, and he had a lot of big plays. You can't take away the three interceptions, but there sure were some good ones in-between those. It's a great learning experience, and every great one has had that."
Mahomes echoed that same sentiment when asked about Coach Reid's message to him amidst the turnovers.
"He told me to keep throwing it and to keep slinging it. He didn't want me to lose who I am," Mahomes said. "I promise you, I know when I'm messing up. When I go to the sidelines, I'm hot. Those coaches come to me, and they know I understand, but they still let me know what I can get better at. I just cannot put our team in that situation. Luckily, we got the win, but you don't win a lot of games when you have three interceptions."
Mahomes took Reid's advice and kept firing throughout the game, completing 28-of-42 passes for 352 yards and three scores. His favorite target on the day was McKinnon, who hauled in seven grabs for a season-most 112 receiving yards. The performance was only two yards shy of matching his career-high of 114 receiving yards set back in 2017.
Tight end Travis Kelce also had a productive day while tallying numerous career milestones. The veteran tight end caught four passes for 71 yards, topping the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh-consecutive season. Kelce is only the 11th player in NFL history, regardless of position, to tally seven-straight 1,000-yard campaigns. He also joined the 10,000-yard club for his career, becoming just the fifth tight end in league history to hit that mark, and by far the fastest to do so.
Kelce discussed the significance of those accomplishments following the game as he continues to establish himself as one of the greatest players in league history.
"Right now, the win means more than any of those stats," Kelce said. "But to come up here and get a win and to join the 10,000 crew – [Antonio] Gates, [Jason] Witten, [Tony] Gonzalez, and Shannon Sharpe – it's unbelievable company to be in. I'm very fortunate that I've had the coaches and the players around me to be able to have the success in the NFL that I have."
In terms of injuries, Coach Reid didn't have any news to report following the game. Kansas City came out of the victory healthy.
The Chiefs will now set their sights toward a road trip to Houston as they prepare to take on the Texans this upcoming Sunday.