Chiefs beat Broncos ... barely. They’ll need to be better to heed this Andy Reid call
This offseason, following an AFC Championship Game loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid created an unofficial rallying cry for this year’s team. The word is one of the last things the Chiefs players see when they run up the stairs from the locker room to Arrowhead Stadium.
Reid felt like his team lost that after getting up 18 points in the first half of last year’s game, eventually failing to reach the Super Bowl after Reid believed his guys didn’t keep up their focus after early success.
It’s gut-check time for the Chiefs now to see if Reid and his players can accomplish that offseason goal — and Sunday’s effort at Denver wasn’t the most encouraging of starts.
Kansas City — most importantly — held on for a 34-28 victory on a warm afternoon at Mile High. The Chiefs improved to 10-3, accomplishing the essential goal of remaining one Buffalo Bills slip-up from the No. 1 seed in the AFC and all-important first-round bye.
But this could’ve — should’ve — been a much easier cruise to the finish line considering how the contest began.
The Chiefs, after a Willie Gay pick-six, led 27-0 late in the second quarter. The win-probability chart at rbsdm.com moved the needle to give Denver a 0% chance to win. Broncos fans booed the home team, and the Chiefs had every reason to be confident of a blowout while going against a Denver offense that had combined to score 29 points in its last three games.
So how did Denver get the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead?
Start with three Patrick Mahomes interceptions. Add in shaky secondary play along with the Broncos striking for big plays, and the Chiefs had to sweat out most of the fourth quarter leading 34-28.
“We talk about that all the time,” Reid told reporters after the game, talking about the importance of putting teams away. “You’ve got a team down. This is the National Football League, so the margin between winning and losing is like this (holding fingers close together). This team’s had a bunch of games — 10 out of 12 games — where it was a one-score game. You know that 27-0 lead, you’ve got to stay on top of it.”
This was the start of a four-game stretch when KC’s “edge” would be tested. The Chiefs had the weakest slate remaining of any NFL team, entering as nine-point favorites at Denver ahead of a road game at Houston before home matchups versus Seattle and Denver again.
KC’s offense got itself together late to secure the victory ... and just in time. Mahomes found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 20 yards on third-and-11 with 3:19 left to keep possession. Jerick McKinnon added a seven-yard run to move the chains on the next series, and Isiah Pacheco finished the game off by bouncing off two tackles to gain 10 yards and the game-clinching first down.
Mahomes took blame for his three picks afterward, saying he needed to be better.
“I just can’t put our team in that situation,” Mahomes told reporters. “Luckily we got the win, but you don’t win a lot of games when you have three interceptions.”
McKinnon had his best receiving game as a Chief, catching seven passes for 112 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Here’s what else stood out Sunday afternoon:
Mahomes does it again
Mahomes added to his “can’t-believe-he-made-that-throw” repertoire Sunday, evading pressure before flinging a no-look, underhand pass to McKinnon for a 56-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
NO LOOK TOSS??? @PatrickMahomes who are you?!?#ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/J4jfxgn04K
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 11, 2022
“I was committed to running, then I saw I was probably going to get hit like I did last week in Cincinnati, so I just kind of flicked it,” Mahomes told reporters. “I was just trying to get it to him whatever way possible, and I just kind of flicked it, and he made a great play after. Guys made some blocks downfield, and he scored a touchdown.”
Remember, Mile High also is where Mahomes completed one of the most famous passes of his career: a 2018 left-handed pass to Tyreek Hill on third down that helped the Chiefs to a road win over the Broncos.
Completing a 10K
Travis Kelce added to his hall-of-fame résumé Sunday, going over 10,000 career receiving yards with a 38-yard reception late in the first quarter.
Kelce became the fifth tight end in NFL history to reach the plateau, joining Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe.
With the catch, Kelce also went over 1,000 receiving yards for the season — the seventh straight year he’s accomplished that feat.
“Honestly right now, the win means more than any of those stats,” Kelce told reporters. “Everybody’s kind of been talking about me getting those stats at some point this year, so I mean, it was on everybody’s radar. But to come up here and get a win and be a part of the crowd that is the 10,000 crew — Gates, Witten, Gonzalez, who am I forgetting there ... Shannon Sharpe, man, the Bronco himself, the main guy I was chasing today — that’s unbelievable company to be in, and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had the coaches and the players around me to be able to have this much success in the NFL that I’ve had.”
The Chiefs complete a three-game road trip with a Week 15 game against the Houston Texans at noon Central on Sunday, Dec. 18. The game will be televised on CBS.