Not that they were ever terribly worried, but the '72 Dolphins can pop those champagne corks. In an AFCW showdown that wasn't as close as many had expected, the Broncos knocked off the NFL's last unbeaten team, 27-17 (Gamebook).
Denver and Kansas City are now tied atop the AFC and AFCW at 9-1, with the rematch coming just two weeks from now at Arrowhead.
But before that, the Broncos head to New England for Manning/Brady 14, while the Chiefs will host the Chargers.
Kansas City's vaunted (overhyped) defense allowed 427 total yards and forced just one turnover, while their fearsome pass rush managed just two hits on Peyton Manning, and no sacks or knockdowns.
To no great surprise, Denver's big advantage in the box score came via the passing game, with their 8.1 yards per dropback nearly doubling KC's 4.4 yards.
The Chiefs started the game with the ball, but the Broncos forced them into a quick three-and-out.
Denver’s opening drive wasn’t a whole lot better, but since it started at the minus-47, it didn’t take much for them to get into FG position, and Matt Prater crushed a 54-yarder to put the Broncos up 3-0. For Prater, it was his 13th conversion against no misses, and his fourth from 50 and beyond.
Two possessions later, Trindon Holliday’s poor decision not to field a punt left Denver pinned at their own three-yard line. The drive ended in seemingly catastrophic fashion, as Peyton Manning's handoff to Montee Ball hit the turf, giving the Chiefs the ball at the 18-yard line.
However, Danny Trevathan forced a fumble on a first-down pass to fullback Anthony Sherman, and Denver took back over at their own 16.
The first touchdown this season by a tight end against the Chiefs, Orange Julius tied Shannon Sharpe’s single-season franchise record for tight ends, with 10 (Shay did it twice - in 1996 and 1998).
KC responded with an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive, aided by three defensive penalties - one of them a mind-numbing taunting foul by Duke Ihenacho.
After an incompletion to Jamaal Charles, Ihenacho’s stupidity turned a would-be third-and-eight from the 12-yard line into a first-and-goal from the six.
Jack Del Rio yanked the second-year safety, and three plays later, Alex Smith hit Dwayne Bowe for a six-yard touchdown, bringing the Chiefs were back to within 10-7.
But just when KC thought it had a game, Manning & Co. responded with a demoralizing 10-play, 79-yard drive, with Ball punching it in from the one.
At 17-7, and just 21 minutes into the game, the Broncos had already scored as many points against the 2013 Chiefs as any other team had.
However, another big penalty - a (correct) holding call against Ihenacho - and a 35-yard run by Charles, set KC up in scoring position.
Denver had helped the Chiefs along with five defensive penalties on two drives, including three for automatic first downs.
But they stiffened up just in time to stuff the visitors three times from inside the two-yard line, and incredibly, Andy Reid opted to kick a 19-yard field goal against what may be the most prolific offense in NFL history.
The lead had been trimmed to 17-10, but field goals are no good against these Broncos, as Andy Reid had apparently not yet learned. We’ll see if he picks up that lesson sometime during the next two weeks. Said Reid in his postgame presser:
When you have an opportunity to score touchdowns against this team, you need to score touchdowns, and not kick field goals.
Do as I say, not as I do...
Making matters worse for KC, they left Manning three minutes with which to operate, and he brought them into field goal range.
However, Prater yanked the 52-yard attempt, and instead of tacking onto their lead, the Broncos handed the ball over at their own 42.
Given the opportunity to have Ryan Succop attempt an NFL-record 64-yarder just before halftime, Reid passed, and the Broncos took a 17-10 lead into the intermission.
To recap, Reid thinks 19-yard field goals are wise against these Broncos, but won’t attempt long kicks when touchdowns are unavailable. Interesting…
After six punts to start the second half, Denver took over at its own 35 with 5:24 remaining in the third quarter. A 33-yard catch-and-run by Eric Decker on a third down near midfield set up an eight-yard touchdown run from Montee Ball, and the Broncos jumped out to a 24-10 lead.
For Ball, it was his second touchdown of the night, and his third of the season.
Denver’s next drive consumed 62 yards and ended with a 36-yarder from Prater which stretched their lead to 27-10.
The Chiefs did answer with a quick 80-yard touchdown drive (again aided by three defensive penalties) that brought them to within 27-17, but they ultimately drew no closer.
- Manning was held to just one touchdown pass for the first time all season; he's now on pace for 54, which would still break Tom Brady's single-season record of 50
- KC did hold Denver to its lowest output of the season at 27 points, one fewer than the Broncos had last week at San Diego
- Demaryius Thomas led all receivers with 121 yards on five receptions
- Meanwhile, Dwayne Bowe's 57 yards led the Chiefs
- Peyton was charged with the early fumble, his eighth of the season. That's a new single-season high for him
- Shaun Phillips stuffed the box score with 10 tackles (seven solo), 1.5 sacks, two TFL, two passes defensed, and two QB hits
- Danny Trevathan also had 10 tackles, six of them solo
- After five consecutive years (2007-2011) with no better than eight wins, the Broncos have assured themselves of a winning record for the second straight year
- Denver's 398 points on the season are the fifth most in franchise history; they're 74 points behind the 1997 squad that won SB 32
- KC's 17 points are the fewest allowed by Denver all season; Jacksonville's 19 were the previous low
- As noted by Gregg Rosenthal, the Chiefs defense has registered neither a QB hit nor sack in its past two games, against Buffalo and Denver, and they only had one sack the game prior, against Cleveland
- Videos: Highlights from BTV and NFLN; Jack Del Rio's postgame locker room speech; Del Rio, Peyton Manning, and several others speak afterward; here are their quotes transcribed
- Lindsay Jones, Gregg Rosenthal, Mike Klis, Mark Kiszla, Woody Paige, Randy Covitz, Sam Mellinger, and Dan Frosch recap the game
- Wes Welker suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter, although he did catch a pass prior to being removed from the game. Here's an instance where the Denver training staff should face some questions.
- Julius Thomas and Rahim Moore suffered what have been called "lower leg injuries."