The Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) won their eighth straight game against an AFC West opponent with their 30-27 victory over the Denver Broncos (7-4) on Sunday night.
This was a game that had a little bit of everything—huge defensive plays, key special teams moments and a Chiefs offense that rose to the occasion when their backs were against the wall.
Make no mistake, this was a statement win by the Chiefs, who have now beat the Oakland Raiders (9-2) and Broncos on the road this season.
Here are 10 observations from Sunday's game:
- This team showed its grit once again
At this point, everyone should just expect this team to respond to adversity this way.
With their backs against the wall, particularly throughout much of the second half and into overtime, the Chiefs showed the entire country just how mentally tough they are.
The ability to respond in these situations is a byproduct of their head coach—Andy Reid—but also the leadership inside that locker room.
They took counterpunches from the Broncos and responded in kind each time. It's become the identity of this team. They won't give in. They won't quit.
There are a lot of teams who couldn't have overcome the things the Chiefs did on Sunday, and it's why they won the game and why they should never be counted out, regardless of any struggles they have earlier in the game.
- The Chiefs offense answered back late in the game
Trailing 24-16 with three minutes left in the game, the Chiefs offense, which had struggled for much of the game, had to go 75 yards for the score, and then they'd have to pick up the two-point conversion if they were going to extend the game.
That's exactly what they did.
The 13-play, 75-yard drive led by quarterback Alex Smith culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tyreek Hill, which was reviewed. It was determined that Hill had possession of the ball in the end zone before he was ruled down.
Hill finished the game with three touchdowns—one receiving, one rushing and one on a kick return.
That touchdown was only possible because of a fourth-and-10 conversion on the play prior— a pass to the far left side of the field, which also went to Hill. It was arguably the biggest play of the game, and Smith, while under duress, threw a perfect strike to the outside.
Hill finished the game with a team-high nine receptions for 52 yards.
On the two-point conversion, Smith rolled right and found tight end Demetrius Harris for the score, which tied the game 24-24 with 12 seconds remaining.
The game would go into overtime, and the Broncos got on the board first with a 44-yard field goal from Brandon McManus.
On that drive, the Broncos were driving deep in Chiefs territory before Justin Houston, who had a phenomenal game, chased down Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian from behind for a short gain. On the next play, on third down, veteran Tamba Hali picked up the sack to force the field goal attempt.
At that point, the Chiefs offense, which had to drive and pick up the field goal to extend the game, did exactly that.
Cairo Santos hit from 37 yards to tie the game 27-27 with 4:19 remaining in overtime.
On three separate occasions, the Chiefs offense, which had its struggles throughout the night against a very good Broncos defense, came up big—once to tie the game in regulation, once to tie the game in overtime and finally, to win the game in overtime.
- Cairo Santos hits the game-winner
After the Broncos attempted and missed a 62-yard field goal with just over a minute left in overtime, the Chiefs had great field position to try and get within range for Santos to hit a game-winner.
On the next three plays from the Chiefs offense, starting with a 6-yard scramble by Smith, followed by an 11-yard completion to Hill and then a 16-yard hookup to TE Travis Kelce, the Chiefs had an opportunity to win the game.
After Santos made contact with the ball on the game-winning field goal attempt, it began drifting to the left and actually bounced off the upright, which led to a roar from the crowd, but the deflected kick went through the uprights to give the Chiefs the win.
Santos finished 2 for 2 on the day, kicking this game-winner and also a game-tying field goal in overtime that extended the game.
It was an amazing ending to an amazing game.
- Justin Houston is back, like really back
After returning to the field last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and having just a limited impact, the world got to see the Justin Houston we've all come to know and expect on Sunday night.
Maybe it was the lights—the fact that it was on primetime, or maybe Houston just needed to knock some rust off last week—but he finished Sunday's game with a team-high 10 tackles, including four for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble that led to a safety, which got the Chiefs on the board at 2-0 midway through the second quarter.
It was an elite player showing up on the biggest stage of the season.
Not long after his third sack, the Broncos actually benched starting right tackle Ty Sambrailo for former Chief Donald Stephenson. Stephenson tried to fare better against the All-Pro outside linebacker.
- Tyreek Hill finally gets loose
After a couple of returns earlier in the game that were within inches of being broken off for a legitimate touchdown opportunity, Hill finally got loose on the ensuing punt after the safety forced by Houston.
Hill put on the jets and raced around the right side 86 yards for the touchdown.
But perhaps the greatest thing about Hill's touchdown was the fact that he high-fived De'Anthony Thomas before he got to the end zone.
It was glorious, and it gave the Chiefs a 9-0 lead.
- Chiefs defense dominated in first half, Alex Smith steps up in the second half
Through the first 30 minutes of the game, the Chiefs defense did a fantastic job corralling the Broncos offense, which finished the first half with just 124 yards of total offense.
The Broncos were 2 of 9 on third-down conversions and allowed four sacks on quarterback Trevor Siemian, who finished the first half 9 of 15 for 89 yards.
On the offensive side, the yards were hard to come by, as the Chiefs finished with 49 yards of total offense and went 1 of 6 on third down.
Through the first 30 minutes of the game, Smith was 5 of 12 for 26 yards.
In the second half and overtime, Smith went 21 of 32 for 194 yards and a touchdown, ultimately leading the offense on three keys drives to pull out the win.
- Rakeem Nunez-Roches brings energy
He's been called an "energy giver" on multiple occasions by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and on Sunday, Rakeem Nunez-Roches showed why once again.
The guy known as "Nacho" around the locker room came up with a big tackle for loss early in the second quarter on a third-and-short run from the Broncos from midfield.
It was one of the key plays that helped the Chiefs win the field position battle in the first half, which helped lead to the safety that initially got them on the board.
It's the kind of play that can easily get lost with so much happening late in the game, but it was plays like this one from Nunez-Roches and the multiple nice special teams tackles from D.J. Alexander, that shouldn't be forgotten.
- Travis Kelce makes a handful of key plays
Right after the Broncos took the lead for the first time in the game midway through the second quarter, the Chiefs were facing a third-and-7 from the 49-yard line.
While under pressure, Smith found Kelce for a gain of 7 yards—extending what would ultimately become a key drive in the game.
A few plays later, Santos hit a field goal from 35 yards to give the Chiefs a 12-10 lead, but an illegal formation call on the Broncos gave the Chiefs a first down.
The Chiefs took advantage of the Broncos' mistake.
On third-and-1 from the 3-yard line, Smith motioned out to the outside and the Chiefs were in what's widely described as a "Wildcat" look.
Spencer Ware took the shotgun snap and ran a zone-read play in which he ultimately ended up handing the ball off to Hill, who raced around the right edge for the touchdown.
The touchdown gave the Chiefs a 16-10 lead, and it all started with Smith finding Kelce on that third-and-7 play.
Kelce would go on to make several key catches for the Chiefs, finishing with eight for 101 yards.
- James Winchester was the right guy in the right spot
Sometimes things just happen that you couldn't write a better script for, which was exactly the case for long snapper James Winchester, who made a key play early in the fourth quarter with the Chiefs' backs seemingly against the wall.
With the Chiefs holding a 16-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos were set to receive the punt from Dustin Colquitt, whose back foot was against the goal line as he got ready to punt.
The Broncos were going to have great field position.
It was then that Broncos punt returner Jordan Norwood muffed the punt at the Chiefs 41-yard line, and who better than to hop on the ball than Winchester, who after just recently tragically losing his father, made a key play for the Chiefs.
- Chiefs coach Andy Reid let Eric Berry address the team afterwards
When speaking with the media in the postgame press conference, Chiefs coach Andy Reid explained that this team isn't satisfied with a big win over a division rival in the regular season, and he let veteran safety Eric Berry address the team in the locker room after the game.
Berry was an enforcer on Sunday—showing a physicality coming down from his safety position that made a difference in this game.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Reid let Berry address the team because he's widely known as one of the leaders of this team.
But it's interesting to note that not more than 15 minutes after a huge win in primetime over the defending Super Bowl champions, Reid and this team were talking amongst themselves about how this win, while great, isn't what this team is striving for.
Their goals are much higher than that, and that's the sign of a special team that's got great leadership.
Photos from the Chiefs Week 12 matchup against the Denver Broncos