Blitz of Broncos keeps Chiefs in division hunt
The Kansas City Chiefs knew they were going to the playoffs before the Christmas kickoff against the Denver Broncos.
Still, the Chiefs played like they have much bigger goals in mind.
Travis Kelce hauled in 11 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and Tyreek Hill added a 70-yard TD run to his rookie highlight reel as KC routed the Broncos 33-10 to keep their AFC West title hopes alive on a soggy, sloppy night at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Unforgettable,” said 346pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe, summing up not only the night for Kansas City but also the way he punctuated it in style, lining up at quarterback and completing a jump pass to tight end Demetrius Harris for a touchdown late in the game.
The Chiefs (11-4) were already assured of a wild card when Pittsburgh beat Baltimore earlier in the day. But a win next weekend in San Diego and an Oakland loss in Denver would give them the division title for the first time since 2010 — not to mention a first-round bye and a home playoff game.
“I give the guys a lot of credit for playing hard when they already clinched a playoff spot. That isn’t easy to do,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They came out and I really thought played aggressive.”
Meanwhile, the Broncos (8-7) trudged through another inept offensive performance, this one costing the reigning Super Bowl champions an opportunity to keep their own postseason hopes alive.
Trevor Siemian was 17 of 43 for 183 yards and a game-ending interception, and the only TD drive he led came after a pick gave him the ball at the Kansas City 6-yard line. Justin Forsett scored two plays later.
The lackluster performance came one week after a dismal showing in a 16-3 loss to New England led to a locker-room shouting match between the Denver offense and defense.
The Broncos downplayed any kind of disharmony this week, but their performance on Sunday night only seemed to underscore the rift.
“Next week is all geared toward next year and our team moving forward,” Denver coach Gary Kubiak said. “We need to finish on a positive note, but we need to move on to the next year.”
Kansas City controlled the game from the start.
Alex Smith capped a 77-yard TD march with a 10-yard keeper in the first quarter, and Hill out-ran four Broncos a few minutes later to give KC a 14-0 lead.
It was the fourth touchdown scored by Hill against the Broncos this season .
Forsett’s touchdown gave Denver fleeting hope, but it was dashed moments later when Kelce hauled in a screen pass and followed perfect blocking for an 80-yard TD and a 21-7 lead.
“It felt good to see this offense come out, three possessions in a row and just move the ball,” Hill said. “We know what we can do. We still haven’t put it all together, but it’s coming.”
Kansas City’s defense took care of the rest, making it a festive night for Chiefs fans.
The Broncos were 7-3 when the teams met last month, but they blew an eight-point lead and wound up losing the game in overtime. That letdown started their downward spiral.
“I’ve thought about that for a few days,” Kubiak said.
“We could’ve came out of that game with a lot of confidence. We come out of the game, we don’t get it done and it’s been a struggle since then — especially offensively, it’s been a struggle. Defensively, I think we’ve battled our tail off.
“We didn’t play good tonight, but that’s the NFL,” he added. “Games here or there that you pull off and can play well and can propel you to great things ... but sometimes they don’t go as well.”
The biggest hit of the night came when a security guard tackled a fan who had run onto the field. It came after the fan already had run untouched about 90 yards, so in that respect, security wasn’t a whole lot better than the Broncos’ first-half defense.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce vaults Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons during the second half of Sunday’s game in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 33-10.