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Broncos blow late lead, fall to Chiefs in frustrating fashion

Henry Chisholm Avatar
October 2, 2018

Needing a touchdown to cap off a Monday Night Football victory over a division rival, Case Keenum had Demaryius Thomas wide open along the sideline, five yards in front of the end zone with 20 seconds remaining in the game. He misfired.

A few plays later, the Broncos lost.

Denver fell 27-23 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night at Mile High. A victory would have put the Broncos at the top of the AFC West, tied with Kansas City, but their 2-2 record leaves them two games back of the division leaders.

The Broncos got off to a hot start, earning first downs on each of their first three plays and setting up inside the Chiefs’ 30-yard line on the fourth. But the drive stalled and Denver only managed three points.

Kansas City then nickeled and dimed their into Broncos’ territory, then Kareem Hunt caught a pass in the flat and tip-toed up the sideline into the red zone, where Harrison Butker tied the game with a field goal. Hunt was the game’s leading rusher with 19 carries for 121 yards.

Denver responded by going three-and-out after Garett Bolles allowed a sack and was called for holding, setting up a long punt return from Tyreek Hill. Kansas City took over at Denver’s 41, but the Broncos’ defense finally found an answer to Pat Mahomes’ early-season success.

Denver brought the house, forcing Mahomes off his spot while tight man coverage locked down all of his options. While this was enough to force a three-and-out on the series, a few lax coverages and leaks in the run defense allowed the Chiefs to take a 10-3 lead on their next possession, five minutes into the second quarter.

The Broncos would respond by scoring 10 more points before halftime, on the back of a 42-yard completion to Courtland Sutton on the sideline and 29 yards receiving from Emmanuel Sanders.

The Chiefs opened the half with a 72-yard drive resulting in a game-tying field goal.

On the next play from scrimmage, Case Keenum threw a pass 25 yards downfield to Jeff Heuerman, but the ball was pulled from his arms by Eric Murray for an interception. Heuerman was the Broncos’ leading receiver on Monday with 57 yards.

Tight coverage paralyzed the Chiefs offense, and they were unable to score despite starting the drive near midfield. Denver, on the other hand, drove down the field efficiently and took a 20-13 lead on a short Philip Lindsay touchdown run, then followed it up with a field goal to extend the lead to 10.

But Denver’s defense allowed two consecutive long touchdown drives, which combined for 20 plays and 135 yards, leaving Case Keenum’s offense with a four-point deficit and 1:39 on the clock.

A 36-yard pass to Heuerman brought the Broncos within field goal range, but the drive faltered from there. With 30 seconds left, Keenum threw incompletions on first and second down, and his third-down pass was too long for Thomas who could have walked into the end zone for a touchdown.

On fourth down, the Broncos tried a hook-and-latter play. Keenum threw to Sutton who wanted to pitch the ball back to Sanders who had a blocker in front of him on the sideline, but the lateral was knocked down from behind, effectively ending the game.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

The Broncos’ top performers on Monday were their rookie running backs. Both Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay dominated in the running game, averaging 6.8 yards per carry as a tandem. Lindsay had 69 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown and Freeman ran for 67 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Royce Freeman caught a pitch on third-and-short inside the red zone with nothing but white jerseys in front of him. But instead of taking the three-yard loss he seemed destined for, Freeman brushed off every tackler between him and the end zone on his way to tying the game at 10.

BY THE NUMBERS

3 – Penalties called on the Broncos

7.22 – Yards per carry for the Broncos’ offense

42 – The percentage of the game the Broncos possessed the football

WHAT’S NEXT

The Broncos have a short week to prepare for their matchup with the Jets at 11 a.m. MST on Sunday at the Meadowlands. New York’s only win this season came in Week 1, when they laid a 48-17 drubbing on the Lions. Since then, the Jets have dropped games to the Dolphins, Browns and Jaguars.

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