KC Chiefs struggle but complete season sweep of Denver Broncos

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 01: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs and Alex Singleton #49 of the Denver Broncos embrace after the game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 01: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs and Alex Singleton #49 of the Denver Broncos embrace after the game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /
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Kansas City plays another “too close for comfort” game with the Denver Broncos, but eke their thirteenth win of the season.

Heading into the fourth quarter of their Week 17 matchup, the Kansas City Chiefs trailed the Denver Broncos 17-13. The Chiefs had punted the ball on three straight drives coming into the final frame and looked completely out of sorts. Fortunately for Kansas City, the defense would close out the third quarter with a three-and-out that gave the football right back to Andy Reid and company. The tide would quickly turn on the Chiefs’ next offensive possession.

Kansas City made quick work of excellent starting field position and went 65 yards on just six plays. The drive was punctuated by a 17-yard touchdown reception over the middle to Blake Bell. Following an interception on the Broncos’ next offensive play, the Chiefs scored again in four plays to push their lead to two scores. It looked as though the Chiefs had awakened from their slumber, but less than five game minutes later, Denver cut the lead to just three points.

With an opportunity to answer, the Chiefs’ offense sputtered again and Kansas City was forced to punt from their own 41-yard line. The Broncos began their next offensive with 4:03 remaining in regulation and were approaching midfield when Chris Jones got penetration and ultimately sacked Russell Wilson for a nine-yard loss. The Broncos turned the ball over on downs and the Chiefs escaped with a three-point victory.

Despite the season sweep, the Broncos gave the Chiefs all they could handle for the second time in 2022. Kansas City committed familiar foibles and made this game much closer than it needed to be. Up three, Patrick Mahomes took an unnecessary chance trying to fit a ball into a Justin Watson-sized window in the end zone. Denver free safety Justin Simmons undercut Watson’s route and intercepted the pass. This trend of offensive turnovers, this late into the season, is deeply concerning. Kansas City has turned the ball over in four of its last five games.

Special teams were an unmitigated disaster again in Week 17. Kicker Harrison Butker missed an extra point after Kansas City scored its first touchdown.  He also missed a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half, though in fairness, the ball appeared to have been tipped. Kadarius Toney coughed the ball up on a punt return that was recovered by tight end Eric Saubert. Those plays are emblematic of an entire season of futility for coordinator Dave Toub, and he may be on the cusp of his final season in Kansas City if things don’t improve.

Defensively, the Chiefs were a mixed bag on Sunday. On the positive end, they sacked Russell Wilson four times and created a pair of turnovers. Pro Bowler Chris Jones snagged his 13th sack of the season and rookie George Karlaftis notched his fifth sack in the last six games. The problem with Kansas City’s defense on Sunday was pass coverage in the middle of the field. Wilson hooked up with a wide-open Albert Okwuegbunam for a 25-yard touchdown on a deep middle route.

Where the run defense is concerned, the Broncos ran the ball 24 times on Sunday and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds combined for 19 carries and 90 rushing yards on Sunday. Russell Wilson had four rushes of his own, two of which went for touchdowns. It was Denver’s run game that helped them mount some offensive momentum. Murray helped get them going with 29 rushing yards on the Broncos’ second offensive possession of the third quarter.

This was not the clean game the Kansas City Chiefs wanted, but they are now 5-0 in the AFC West. They’ve done their part to stay in the race for the No. 1 seed, but need help from the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Things did get a bit more interesting in the AFC playoff picture with a New England Patriots win today over the Miami Dolphins. They can play their way into the postseason tournament with a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 18. That will keep things interesting in the quest for home-field advantage. Kansas City still needs to take care of its own business in the rematch with the Las Vegas Raiders next weekend.

Next. Five Chiefs who stepped up against Broncos. dark