“A lot of people expect a lot of things out of life and they don’t go their way,” safety Eric Berry says. “This is a game. If you fight back in life, it’s easy to fight back in a game. Nobody’s dying or anything like that. It’s just a bad season. So we gotta finish this out strong and, I hate to say build for next year, but we need to build that momentum going into next year. It just is what it is.”
This is one of the Chiefs’ most earnest and hard-working players, a bright guy with a refill of football passion after missing virtually all of last season with a knee injury. And with more than a month left, he’s reaching for motivation.
While Berry is speaking, Crennel walks by, through the Chiefs’ locker room and back toward an office. He wakes up Monday morning trying to excavate hope from the hopeless. This is the worst coaching challenge in sports.
“Third down, that’s where he goes to work,” Berry said of Manning. “It’s like a dink-and-dunk offense. He knows what we’re in, and what you’re going to do. He’s going to do things to beat the coverage.”
Manning gave the Broncos the lead for good with a perfectly thrown 30-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, who beat cornerback Jalil Brown on a corner route, making it 14-9 late in the third quarter.
“When you play a guy like him, you’ve got to be flawless,” cornerback Javier Arenas said of Manning, who completed 22 of 37 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. “We were close to being flawless …There were a couple of plays we could have been better on … that’s the difference in the game.
Solutions for what ails their struggling offense continue to elude the Chiefs, but center Ryan Lilja had a great answer when asked where they would get their points over the season’s final five games.
“Hopefully not from the field-goal kicker,’’ Lilja said.
But if not for field goals from Ryan Succop, the offense would have ground to a complete stop a long time ago. They were held without a touchdown for the second straight game in Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium and haven’t found the end zone since Jamaal Charles’ 12-yard scoring run in the first quarter against the Steelers three weeks ago.
Manning overcame an early interception to complete 22-of-37 throws for 285 yards for the Broncos (8-3), winners of six straight games. Demaryius Thomas and Jacob Tamme each hauled in four passes and a score in the victory.
Knowshon Moreno, who hadn’t seen game action since Week 2, handled the bulk of the rushing attempts in Willis McGahee’s absence. He rushed for 85 yards on 20 carries for the game.
“He’s had a great attitude,” said Broncos coach John Fox about Moreno. “Things haven’t gone perfect for him, but I knew he would perform well, I think his teammates knew he’d perform well and he did. We’re proud of his effort.”
It allowed Manning to break a tie with his boss and Broncos vice president John Elway with his 149th win as a starting quarterback, trailing only Brett Favre (186) for most in NFL history.
“Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We played pretty good as a defense most of the game, but he made a few plays, one or two more plays than we’d like him to make, and he came up with a victory.”