The Broncos lost their penultimate game of the 2022 season 27-24 to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. The game was the Broncos’ 15th consecutive loss to the Chiefs, a streak that stretches back to the Broncos’ Super Bowl season of 2015. Denver is now 4-12 with one game left, a home match against the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday.
Here’s what you need to know:
The defense gives Denver a chance
The Broncos weren’t perfect on defense but almost nobody is against the Chiefs.
But when it mattered, Denver’s defense kept the team in the game.
Kansas City received the the second-half kickoff with a great opportunity; they were a touchdown away from taking a 10-point lead. Given the Broncos’ offensive struggles this season, their 14-game losing streak against Kansas City and the Chiefs’ offensive firepower, it felt like a potential put-away drive.
The defense stepped up and forced three consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half, allowing a combined eight yards. The offense managed a score and the Broncos took a 17-13 lead.
When the Broncos scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull within three points, the defense only gave up one first down before forcing a punt, and the offense got the ball back with four minutes to play at their own 26, with three timeouts in their pocket. You don’t get many opportunities like that against Kansas City.
Pat Surtain was the defensive standout, though you may not have noticed him. The stats don’t stand out, but that’s because Surtain was not targeted during the game.
Just about everybody else made a mistake or two. Justin Simmons picked off a pass in the end zone but he was beaten by Kadarius Toney on two deep balls. Cornerback Lamar Jackson broke up a pair of passes but was also picked on in the fourth quarter.
Russell Wilson can’t quite finish
By his 2022 standards, Russell Wilson had a great game. He completed 26 of his 38 pass attempts for 222 yards with a touchdown and interception. He ran in two more touchdowns. By the numbers, it was an easy top-five performance of his season, and a clear step in the right direction.
But for a quarterback who has made his name in fourth quarters, there was still more to be desired.
The Broncos had the ball down 20-17 at the start of the first quarter. They were trying to answer a quick touchdown drive from the Chiefs. On the first play of the drive, Wilson threw an ugly interception toward the sideline when he didn’t see a cornerback crashing in to make a play on the ball. A few plays later, the Broncos faced a 10-point deficit that could easily have been avoided.
Wilson got the ball with four minutes left at his own 26. A field goal would have tied the game up and a touchdown would give Denver the lead. The Broncos made it to their own 45 before turning the ball over on downs.
Again, this was one of the best performances of the season from Wilson and the Broncos’ offense, and they put together a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave them a chance to win late, but Wilson came up short in a couple of key moments.
It was a good day for 2022 Russell Wilson, but not quite up to par for a $245 million quarterback.
Denver wins the trenches
On both sides of the ball, the Broncos controlled the ground.
Latavius Murray ran for 56 yards on 12 carries and Chase Edmonds added 34 more his seven carries. Russell Wilson ran for 27 yards and two touchdowns.
The Broncos’ 117 yards is nothing spectacular, but it’s better than their average and the efficiency was Denver’s fourth-best this season. Meanwhile, the Chiefs only managed 46 yards on the ground and their longest run of the day went for six yards.
A little more of a pass rush would have worked wonders—the Broncos were held sack-less for the third time this season—but the Broncos’ secured a clear win in the trenches.
The refs provide controversy
In the third quarter, Courtland Sutton jumped up between two defenders and hauled in a ball 44 yards downfield. For the first time all day, the sportsbooks favored Denver.
But it only last for an instant.
The refs called Sutton for offensive pass interference. Sutton had swiped an opponent’s arm away, but only after the Chief had locked Sutton’s own arm down. It was a bang-bang play that typically results in a no-call.
When Chris Jones hit Russell Wilson and forced a game-ending, fourth-down incompletion, the defensive lineman flung the quarterback around in a circle and slammed him into the ground. IT was a textbook roughing the passer penalty, but the referees didn’t throw a flag that would have extended the game and given the Broncos the ball at the edge of game-tying field position. They swallowed their whistles in crunch time.
The referees were in the spotlight on a number of occasions throughout the game, and there’s not denying the Broncos came out on the losing end.
Three Broncos leave with injuries
Denver’s injury luck has been the worst in the NFL this season, and it didn’t get any better on Sunday.
Rookie cornerback Damarri Mathis, who has started 11 games this season, left the field with a concussion after Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce attempted to jump over Mathis and Mathis slammed his head into the ground. He was replaced by Lamar Jackson, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday.
Starting left guard Dalton Risner hyperextended his elbow and did not return to the field. Quinn Bailey took his place on the field. Risner left the stadium in a sling after the game.
Reserve safety PJ Locke left the game with an ankle injury while playing special teams.