But for the Chiefs, who began the game as the NFL’s last unbeaten team at 9-0, it was the beginning of the end. Ball’s touchdown gave the Broncos a 24-10 lead in a game they would go on to win 27-17.
It was the first time in the season that an opponent cracked 17 points against what had been a stubborn Chiefs defense. But Ball’s touchdown seemed to bring down the wall.
The San Diego Chargers scored 41 points against the Chiefs the next week. All but one of Kansas City’s remaining six opponents scored at least 23 points against the Chiefs. That includes the infamous playoff collapse in which the Indianapolis Colts rallied from a 28-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Chiefs 45-44.
It was about as dramatic a turn of fortunes for a defense as possible in the course of one season. The Chiefs, once on a record pace for sacks in a season, finished tied for sixth in the league. They were the NFL’s leaders early in the season in scoring defense, but finished tied for fifth in points allowed.
The shame for the Chiefs is that their offense, which struggled mightily to score points early in the season, came around in the second half. The Chiefs scored at least 24 in six of their last seven games, topping 38 points four times.
That wasn’t good enough to prevent the Chiefs from losing six of their last eight games and bowing out in the first round of the playoffs yet again.