The Chiefs earned more than an “ugly win” over the Broncos (and other lessons learned in Week 13).
This week the red-on-red Kansas City Chiefs knocked off the Denver Broncos 22-16. It was a peculiar game, and it contained one of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen—you caught it, Tyreek!
It wasn’t the glorious offensive onslaught we saw last week, but with their win, the Chiefs remain in the haunt for the vaunted AFC 1 seed. As always, here are some lessons learned about the Chiefs in their victory over Denver.
This wasn’t an ugly win
At first glance, the Chiefs’ 22-16 victory over the lowly Broncos was less than ideal. Common sense says that a Chiefs team that handled Tampa Bay and Baltimore would roll past the Denver Broncos. The term “ugly win” is being thrown around a lot to describe it. Don’t get me wrong, the Chiefs have won ugly (think Week 2 vs. the Chargers) but this victory shouldn’t be remembered as an ugly win.
First of all, the Chiefs saw 6 points wiped off the board in extremely—and I mean extremely—bizarre fashion. In the second quarter, Mahomes threw a bomb to Tyreek Hill. The ball was tipped up in the end zone, and landed in Hill’s arms somewhat awkwardly. Hill got up disappointed, as if he thought he didn’t catch it. Yet, watching it live it looked like Hill had actually made the catch.
Various replay angles more or less confirmed the fact that Hill had made the catch. In short, Hill did not think he made the catch, and Andy Reid chose not to challenge the ruling of an incomplete pass. (For the record, this was the loudest I’ve raged all season while watching the Chiefs)
More than anything, the play was bizarre. Typically, the receiver will plead his case even on clear incompletions, or plays where he steps out of bounds. It’s hard to say more about the situation than “I hope that never happens again.”
Later in the game, Mahomes connected again with Hill on a deep TD pass, but the play was nullified thanks to a ticky-tack Nick Allegretti holding call. The call was probably correct, but it’s important to remember how close the Chiefs were to another huge touchdown in that moment. Now, had the Chiefs scored both these touchdowns, we wouldn’t be calling it an ugly game. It just goes to show how a couple plays here and there can determine the entire narrative of a game.
Even beyond these two would-be touchdowns, the Chiefs offense moved the ball pretty well. They eclipsed 100 yards rushing, hit a bunch of chunk plays, and distributed the ball really well. Pass protection struggled, but Mahomes expertly navigated the pocket, delivering crucial throws in the face of pressure.
The Chiefs really struggled on the goal line. The O-line didn’t quite get the push on a few inside runs, and the Broncos did a great job at nullifying outside runs at the goal line. They settled for a couple early Butker field goals on drives that stalled out around the goal line.
Rather than calling this an ugly game, I think it’s more accurate to say the final score did not reflect the difference between the Broncos and Chiefs. “Winning ugly” should be a term reserved for games that end 5-3 between 3rd string QBs in a monsoon. This was not that game.
Concerns about both pass protection and goal-line production are legitimate, but merely labeling this game as an “ugly win” bypasses a conversation about the specific areas in which the Chiefs struggled.
So, we should be clearer with how we label games. Was this game annoyingly close? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. But that closeness is more due to the offense stalling in a very specific facet, along with a couple fluky plays. The offense was polished throughout, and the defense played admirably. The difference between the Chiefs and Broncos was bigger than their 6-point differential.