Chiefs end play­off hopes of Su­per Bowl cham­pion Bron­cos

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The Su­per Bowl cham­pion Den­ver Bron­cos saw their slim hopes of re­turn­ing to the NFL post-sea­son ex­tin­guished on Sun­day with a 33-10 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Chiefs went into the con­test as­sured of a play­off spot af­ter the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers de­feated bit­ter divi­sion ri­vals Bal­ti­more 31-17 in the first of two Christ­mas Day games.

That vic­tory gave the Steel­ers the AFC North crown, and with Sun­day night’s re­sult in Kansas City all of the Amer­i­can Foot­ball Con­fer­ence play­off teams were set, the fi­nal berth go­ing to the Mi­ami Dolphins with Den­ver’s de­feat. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and wide re­ceiver Tyreek Hill scored early touch­downs to give Kansas City a lead they wouldn’t re­lin­quish.

Hill scored on a 70-yard run­ning play and Kelce de­liv­ered an 80-yard touch­down on a screen pass from quar­ter­back Alex Smith. Kansas City im­proved to 11-4 and are headed to the play­offs for the third time in four sea­sons un­der head coach Andy Reid.

The Chiefs can still claim the AFC West crown if they can beat San Diego and divi­sion lead­ers Oak­land fall to the Bron­cos next week.

The Bron­cos, less than a year re­moved from their Su­per Bowl 50 tri­umph over the Carolina Pan­thers, are the eighth cham­pion in 20 years to fail to reach the play­offs the next sea­son. The Pan­thers have also been elim­i­nated from post­sea­son con­tention.

Kelce and Hill com­bined for 255 of the 484 of­fen­sive yards Kansas City piled up against Den­ver’s vaunted de­fense, which en­dured a bruis­ing night.

De­fen­sive end Derek Wolfe went into the game with a neck in­jury and de­parted with the in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter. Cor­ner­back Kayvon Web­ster de­parted with a con­cus­sion af­ter ab­sorb­ing a fright­en­ing first-half hit.

The Chiefs de­fense, mean­while, forced two Den­ver fum­bles and seized a last-play in­ter­cep­tions, sur­ren­der­ing only one touch­down and lim­it­ing the Bron­cos to just 246 of­fen­sive yards.

STEEL­ERS SURGE IN FOURTH

In Pitts­burgh, the Steel­ers ex­ploded for 21 points in the fourth quar­ter to get past the Ravens, who were elim­i­nated from play­off con­tention. Ben Roeth­lis­berger con­nected on a four-yard touch­down pass to An­to­nio Brown with nine sec­onds re­main­ing as the Steel­ers over­came a 10-point deficit in the fi­nal pe­riod. The Steel­ers beat their bit­ter divi­sion ri­vals for the first time in five clashes.

“We punched our ticket, and that’s an awe­some thing,” Steel­ers coach Mike Tom­lin said of se­cur­ing a play­off berth.

Roeth­lis­berger, lim­ited to an open­ing drive touch­down through three quar­ters, drove the Steel­ers to three touch­downs in 12 min­utes.

That in­cluded two TDs from Le’Veon Bell some four min­utes apart that helped the Steel­ers erase a 20-10 deficit and take a 24-20 edge. But Bal­ti­more surged back as quar­ter­back Joe Flacco mounted a 75-yard, go-ahead touch­down drive capped by Kyle Juszczyk’s 10-yard scor­ing run. Roeth­lis­berger had just enough time to fash­ion a game-sav­ing 75-yard drive, capped by Brown reach­ing with an arm to get the ball across the goal line. “I have to get the ball in. I have to get the ball in,” Brown said of his mind­set. “I know I’m go­ing to take some con­tact, and I knew af­ter that I was go­ing to be able to get the ball in.” Added Roeth­lis­berger: “When AB came in there, I thought I could get it to him. He caught it at the one (yard line) and he reached over and it was just an awe­some play by him.” —AFP

PITTSBURG: Bal­ti­more Ravens full­back Kyle Juszczyk (44) dives into the end zone for a touch­down dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NFL foot­ball game against the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers in Pitts­burgh, Sun­day. — AP

KANSAS CITY: Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) vaults Den­ver Bron­cos safety Justin Sim­mons (31) dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NFL foot­ball game in Kansas City, Mo., Sun­day. — AP

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