The Denver Broncos prevailed over the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday, winning 31-24. It was a rough game for Peyton Manning, throwing another pick-six and taking multiple hits at the hands of an aggressive Chiefs defense. But he ultimately led the team down to a game-tying drive in the final minutes and a timely fumble by the Chiefs was returned for a touchdown, avoiding overtime and giving them the win.
It was an ugly game from the onset. There were four sacks, seven penalties and no points in the first quarter of play alone. There was also a bad fumble from Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles after a long drive that would have likely ended in points for the Chiefs. It didn't get any prettier from there, as the Chiefs lost a fumble at the beginning of the second quarter, giving Denver the ball in Kansas City territory.
But offenses didn't really prevail in this one, and after a successful fourth-and-1 was converted and then called back due to a timeout before the snap, the Broncos failed to convert and the Chiefs took over again.
Points weren't on the board until Denver shot themselves in the foot multiple times on defense. They were called for a pair of unnecessary roughness penalties, which advanced the Chiefs a total of 30 yards. That opened the door for Charles to take one 34 yards to the house for the first points of the game.
The scoring was rapid from there, with Kansas City putting up another touchdown after a Manning interception, and they seemed to have all the momentum before Manning threw a couple of touchdown passes in the span of a couple minutes to tie the game heading into the second half. Neither scored again until the Chiefs put together a scoring drive with under three minutes to go in the game. The Broncos followed it up with a touchdown of their own with under a minute to go.
From there, the Chiefs had that costly fumble, which was returned for a touchdown, and they were unable to do anything with the remaining 27 seconds on the clock.
Manning had a pretty significant career milestone on Thursday, reaching 70,000 career passing yards. He needed just 134 on the day to reach the market, and he got that and then some. Manning finished completing 26 of 45 passes for 256 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Denver only managed 61 yards on the ground, with Ronnie Hillman putting up 34 of them. Jamaal Charles led the way for Kansas City with 125 yards and a touchdown, but he also had that fumble. Alex Smith completed 16 of 25 passes for 191 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
3 things we learned from Thursday's game
These pass rushers are pretty good
Just in case you weren't aware, there were some pretty good pass rushers on Thursday. DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller were obviously the headline for Denver, and Justin Houston provided the pass-rushing oomph for the Chiefs. It was a bad game for quarterbacks, especially in the first half. Manning was under assault for much of the game and had to throw balls quicker than he'd have liked, while Smith didn't have much more luck himself. Both teams logged two sacks in the first half, with Denver adding another four quarterback hits and Kansas City adding three.
That kind of thing was pretty much happening all night long.
Manning is still struggling
Manning didn't have a great game in his debut against the Baltimore Ravens, throwing for just 175 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. That pick also was returned for a touchdown. On Thursday, he didn't look great from the onset, and then this happened:
The pressure was in Manning's face, and he had to throw that ball well before he wanted to and the timing with his receiver just wasn't there. That was Marcus Peters securing the interception and the touchdown. Manning did find his groove and did eventually put points on the board for Denver, but it was another rough start for a player who can't have a lot left in the tank.
Sometimes your first instinct is the right one
At the beginning of the second quarter, the Broncos forced a fumble on De'Anthony Thomas, giving Denver the ball in Kansas City territory. They didn't get the first down after a handful of plays, and found themselves in a fourth-and-1 situation. It's unclear if Denver head coach Gary Kubiak second-guessed himself or what, but Denver ran a play, a run to CJ Anderson that successfully picked up the first down, keeping the drive alive. Look at it here:
But the play was called back because the Broncos took a timeout before the beginning of the play, and the whistles came in late. So it went back to fourth-and-1, the Broncos tried another run to the other direction and this one wasn't even close to being converted. They turned the ball over to the Chiefs, who went on to put the first points of the game on the board on the ensuing drive.