AFC West: 2013 Week 13 DEN at KC Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

December, 1, 2013

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.

Rapid Reaction: Kansas City Chiefs

December, 1, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few thoughts on the Kansas City Chiefs' 35-28 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Chiefs lost both games in the season series to the Broncos. While at 9-3 the Chiefs trail the 10-2 Broncos by one game in the AFC West standings, they effectively trail by 1 games, because Denver has the tiebreaker. So the Chiefs would need to finish ahead of the Broncos in the standings to win the division, while the Broncos could finish tied in the standings with the Chiefs at the end of the season and still be the division champion.

Stock watch: The Chiefs again failed to sack Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. They were able to get some pressure on Manning early in the game and affect some of his throws, but that pressure dissipated as the game went on and Manning was able to step into all of his throws. They were frequently asked to cover for too long, but the cornerbacks again had a tough day. That’s particularly true for Marcus Cooper, who was beaten cleanly off the line by Demaryius Thomas on one of the game’s crucial plays. Thomas had a 77-yard catch and run in the third quarter to set up the Denver touchdown that put the Broncos ahead for good.

On offense, wide receiver Donnie Avery dropped a pair of deep passes, and a reserve, A.J. Jenkins, dropped another pass. The Chiefs received some contributions from unexpected places, though. Rookie Knile Davis returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in the first half, the longest such return in Chiefs history and second-longest in NFL history. Wide receiver Junior Hemingway had a pair of catches, including a 17-yard reception for the first touchdown of the game.

Losing steam: The Chiefs had everything going in the first half as they built a 21-7 lead. They came after the Broncos in all three phases with great energy and, with the backing of a loud home crowd, appeared headed for a lopsided victory. The Broncos weren’t matching their intensity. But while Denver put its game into a higher gear, it was the Chiefs who couldn’t sustain the pace. The Chiefs owned the last half of the fourth quarter, but after scoring one touchdown, their final drive stalled and they relinquished the ball on downs at the Denver 13.

What’s next: The Chiefs begin a two-game road trip next Sunday with a game against the Washington Redskins. The Chiefs will finish the road trip on Dec. 15 against the Oakland Raiders.