8:30 PM ET, November 17, 2013
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Peyton Manning throws for 323 yards as Broncos knock off Chiefs
DENVER -- Peyton Manning walked off the field showing no trace of a limp and hardly a spot of dirt.
Manning threw for 323 yards and a touchdown Sunday night and was barely touched by the Kansas City Chiefs' sack-happy defense in Denver's 27-17 victory over the NFL's last undefeated team.
It means the '72 Dolphins can rest easy for another year. And it puts the Broncos and Chiefs in a tie atop the AFC West at 9-1, with a rematch set in two weeks.
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• Radio: Mike & Mike weigh in
Manning has another big game before that -- on the road against the New England Patriots in yet another showdown against Tom Brady. If the Broncos' offensive line does anywhere near as good a job in that one as it did against the Chiefs, the quarterback's ailing ankles -- mummified with athletic tape after taking a beating the past couple of weeks -- should be feeling much better.
"They were under fire last week because Peyton got hit a few times but they've done a great job all year," said Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio, now 2-0 while John Fox recovers from heart surgery. "We knew this was going to be a game you had to play well in the trenches to have a chance."
With Lindsey Vonn and boyfriend Tiger Woods on the sideline to watch the NFL's must-see game of the year, the Denver offensive line, featuring tackles Chris Clark and Orlando Franklin, shut out Kansas City's sack duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali along with the rest of the Chiefs' defense, which came in with a league-leading 36 sacks.
"Our plan was to get to the quarterback but the ball is coming out quick," Hali said. "He did a great job and their team did a great job protecting him."
So good, in fact, the Chiefs didn't even record a hit on the quarterback.
"We just keep our heads down and keep blocking -- don't look at the scoreboard, don't look at the time, keep blocking your guy -- like tunnel vision," Clark said.
Johnson was barreling toward the end zone and what could've been a 7-3 Chiefs lead. Manning lowered his shoulder and tripped him up. The Chiefs' offense came out and fullback Anthony Sherman promptly fumbled the ball back to the Broncos.
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"I was kind of right there," Manning said about the tackle. "You don't feel good about leaving the field. They turn around and fumble right away and we go and score. That's a pretty critical series right there."
Three plays after the back-to-back fumbles, Manning made the game's biggest play on offense, spotting receiver Demaryius Thomas in single coverage on the sideline for a 70-yard gain that set up the quarterback's lone touchdown pass -- a 9-yard strike to Julius Thomas for a 10-0 lead.
The Chiefs' defense, which came into the game also leading the league in points allowed (12.8), remained stout throughout against the league's highest-scoring offense (41.2). But eventually, Manning and Co. overwhelmed them, going 79, 65 and 62 yards for their last three scores and a 27-10 lead.
Ball capped two of the drives, once from 1 yard and another time from 8, to atone for the fumble, which was actually charged to Manning.
The Chiefs, who hadn't lost since a 38-3 setback in Denver last December to close out a 2-14 season, hadn't allowed more than 17 points all season -- a simple and effective explanation for one of the biggest turnarounds in league history.
But the offense, led by Alex Smith, simply isn't built to win a high-scoring showdown.
Smith finished with 230 yards and two touchdowns. He completed four passes for 57 yards to Dwayne Bowe, who started while his legal case for marijuana possession plays out. Jamaal Charles, who came in leading the AFC in rushing with 725 yards, added 78 to that.
"We didn't do a good enough job offensively," Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. "That's my responsibility. We're a young football team. We'll get it worked out and fixed and get better next week."
The game-time temperature of 43 degrees brought out Manning's blue-and-gray glove for the first time this season, but it didn't slow the quarterback or the offense.
Knowshon Moreno ran for 79 yards and kept the chains moving for Denver, while Wes Welker took his turn as Manning's favorite target, catching eight passes for 72 yards before leaving with what was later announced to be a concussion.
Though one touchdown pass marked a season low for Manning, it gave him 71 in his year-plus with the Broncos, already tying him for third in franchise history with Jake Plummer and Brian Griese. Manning has 34 on the season and is still on pace to break the record of the man he'll face next week -- Brady -- in yet another big game for the Broncos.
Manning refused to answer questions about his ankles after the game. "Not doing the weekly checkups and updates," he said.
No need on this night.
And while the Chiefs got shut out on the sack end, Shaun Phillips had a monster game for the Broncos: 10 tackles, two quarterback hits, two pass deflections and 1.5 sacks to more than make up for an off night from Von Miller, who had only one tackle.
Broncos S Rahim Moore left the game with a lower leg injury. ... Del Rio's first challenge of the season was a success. It gave the Broncos a first down with less than five minutes left after the officials had marked them short after a third-down gain. ... The Broncos finished with 13 penalties for 82 yards, including three apiece on Kansas City's last two scoring drives.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Peyton Manning #18 and Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos stretch prior to...(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.7||5.6|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-4||3-4|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|FG||12:38||Matt Prater 54 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 7 plays, 17 yds, 1:31
|TD||3:07||Julius Thomas 9 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 84 yds, 2:25
|TD||13:28||Dwayne Bowe 6 Yard Pass From Alex Smith (Ryan Succop Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yds, 4:40
|TD||9:09||Montee Ball 1 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 79 yds, 4:18
|FG||2:58||Ryan Succop 20 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 12 plays, 79 yds, 6:10
|TD||2:28||Montee Ball 8 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 65 yds, 3:02
|FG||7:10||Matt Prater 36 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 10 plays, 62 yds, 4:42
|TD||5:02||Anthony Fasano 10 Yard Pass From Alex Smith (Ryan Succop Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yds, 2:10
The Chiefs sent four or fewer pass rushers against Peyton Manning on 34 of his 40 dropbacks (85%). The Chiefs didn't sack Manning and they put him under duress on only 12.5% of his dropbacks, their lowest rate in a game this season. Coming into the game, the Chiefs held opposing quarterbacks to a NFL-low 30.8 Total QBR when sending standard pressure. - The Chiefs had seven or more defenders in coverage on 85% of Manning's dropbacks. The Chiefs still couldn't contain the Broncos receivers as they had 187 yards after the catch Sunday, the most the Chiefs have given up in a game this season.[+]
Chiefs Pass Defense with 4 or Fewer Rushers, 2013
Peyton Manning had a 66.5 Total QBR against the Chiefs, his 16th straight game with a Total QBR above 50.0. The next longest active streak in the NFL is Matthew Stafford with 5. The Broncos are 15-1 during that span, and Manning has led the NFL in the following quarterback measures:[+]
Peyton Manning Passing Since Week 12 Last Season
The Broncos sent five or more pass rushers on 19 of Alex Smith's 51 dropbacks (37.3%). They recorded two sacks with added pressure and Smith was 4-for-16 for 55 yards against such pressure (25%), his lowest completion percentage against added pressure in a game since 2006.
-Compared with its average entering the game, the Chiefs' defense was 16 points worse against the Broncos than it had been in the first 10 weeks of the season. The defense's average contribution to the Chiefs' net scoring margin had been 11.0 points, but against Peyton Manning and the Broncos it was -5.0 points. Defensive EPA measures the contributions of a defense to its team's net scoring margin by controlling field position, forcing turnovers and keeping the opponent from scoring. The Chiefs had 0 sacks for the second straight game, and they have not recorded a sack in their opponents' last 90 dropbacks.
With the Broncos win over the Chiefs, both teams are tied for the lead in the AFC West at 9-1. It's the first time since 1948 that two teams in the same division started a season 9-1 or better. In the previous 4 instances, one of the teams would play in the NFL Championship game.[+]
No team would be envious of the Broncos over the next three weeks. They face the 7-2 Patriots in Week 12. That game is bookended by a pair of games with the 9-0 Chiefs. By the time they play each game, none of their opponents will have MORE than 3 losses. According to Elias, the last time a team was able to win 3 consecutive games this late into a season (Week 10 or later) against opponents with 3 or fewer losses were the 2008 Giants Beat Eagles (5-3) in Week 10 Beat Ravens (6-3) in Week 11 Beat Cardinals (7-3) in Week 12
If Sunday's game comes down to the 4th quarter, it will involve the two best teams in the final 15 minutes this season. The Broncos have a league-high 115 points in the 4th quarter while the Chiefs have allowed a league-low 17 points in the final 15 minutes. Both of those are on pace to be the best in any 4th quarter since 2001.[+]
Best Points Differential in 4th Quarter This Season
Matt Prater (DEN): 1st missed field goal of season; including his first made attempt on Sunday, he had made 13 consecutive this season. It's his first regular season miss since Dec. 16 of last season - he had made 16 straight going back to last season.
Julius Thomas now has 10 rec TD for the Broncos. Only Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have done that in the last 2 seasons. Thomas is the first Broncos TE to do so since Shannon Sharpe.[+]
For the majority of the season, the Broncos offensive line has been the best in football. Overall, Denver QBs have been pressured just 62 times (fewest in the NFL). However, 31 such plays have come in the last 3 games. Sunday night, they'll face their toughest test in the Chiefs. Kansas City's defense has the 3rd-most QB pressures this season (118), and leads the NFL in sacks (36).
Montee Ball (DEN): 2 rushing touchdowns in last 3 games after 0 in his first 7 career games.
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