Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos
December, 1, 2013
By Jeff Legwold | ESPN.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 35-28 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:
What it means: With another remember-when day from Peyton Manning, the Broncos put themselves squarely on the inside lane for the AFC West title, with a one-game lead and a season sweep of the Chiefs. The Broncos sit at 10-2 and don’t play a team with a winning record the rest of the way (Tennessee, San Diego, Houston and Oakland).
Stock watch: It has been a bumpy ride at times for running back Montee Ball, including a fumble deep in Broncos territory in the third quarter against New England last weekend that helped fuel the Patriots' comeback and was his third lost fumble of the season. But against the Chiefs, with Knowshon Moreno dealing with a bone bruise in his right ankle, Ball got quality snaps at important times. And his 45-yard run to open the Broncos’ drive with five minutes left in the third quarter was perhaps his biggest jaunt of the season.
A measured return: Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey played for the first time since he left the Week 7 loss in Indianapolis after aggravating a left foot injury. He briefly left Sunday’s game after being hit in the midsection on a tackle, then played largely in the nickel. Kayvon Webster and Chris Harris played much of the time as the corners in the base defense, and in the second half there were times when Harris, Webster and Quentin Jammer played as the three cornerbacks in the nickel. They want Bailey available for the long haul, and had said they may work him into things on a situational basis.
A full Decker: The Broncos came into the game with three players -- Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker -- with at least nine touchdown receptions. But Eric Decker had not really joined the scoring fun, with three touchdowns in the Broncos’ first 11 games -- he had just one catch for 5 yards in the loss in New England. Then Decker manhandled the Chiefs' man coverage, especially rookie Marcus Cooper, and finished with 174 yards and four touchdown catches.
What’s next: The Broncos are fairly battered, with a long list of aching players coming in and kick/punt returner Trindon Holliday having left Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury. They will now have two games in a five-day span, facing Tennessee next Sunday and San Diego on the following Thursday. It’s an important late-season stretch for a team with more than its share of guys in the trainer's room.