It turns out that “Showtime” has some substance to go with the sizzle. After trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs woke up in time to notch a 27-23 win over Denver at Mile High. Even better, the Kansas City defense managed a stop to preserve the victory.
With the win over the Broncos, the Chiefs are now 2-0 in the AFC West, beyond being one of the NFL’s last two undefeated teams (along with the LA Rams). They also added to their winning streak over Denver, making it six in a row now.
As we do every week, Sports Al Dente had three key matchups to watch heading into the game. How did the Chiefs do in those areas in their win? Not too shabby, as it turns out.
Kareem Hunt vs. Expectations
After leading the league in rushing last season, Hunt wasn’t a big factor in Kansas City’s three wins heading into this game. That changed Monday night.
The second-year back averaged 6.4 yards per carry, totaling 121 yards on 19 carries. He hadn’t managed a long run till now but broke off a 45-yarder against the Broncos. After being non-existent in the Chiefs passing attack during the first three weeks, he also caught three balls for 54 yards (although, he also had a pretty egregious drop).
As Mahomes struggled against pressure early in the game, Hunt provided a steadying presence. That’s exactly what having a top-flight running back can bring to Andy Reid‘s pass-heavy offense.
It would still be nice to see the Chiefs rushing and passing attacks both click at the same time. The mere thought that of what that could look like (think “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams) is probably causing plenty of sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. Still, this was a nice reminder of what Hunt can do.
For three quarters, Miller and the Broncos defense did a nice job of making Mahomes uncomfortable. They weren’t getting sacks, but the pressure was effecting the young quarterback. Before the fourth quarter, Mahomes was just 15-29 for 151 yards.
Meanwhile, the crowd noise was bothering Kansas City’s offensive line, with left tackle Eric Fisher jumping early multiple times. Sammy Watkins was lost early with a hamstring injury and Denver was blanketing Travis Kelce inside and Tyreek Hill outside. Schwartz was his usual solid self, but the Broncos defensive backs were making Mahomes hold the ball an awfully long time.
Denver was holding the Chiefs to field goals and that seemed like a recipe for success. Then the fourth quarter happened.
The defense didn’t change anything but Kelce started finding pockets to sit while Mahomes found him. Kansas City put together a 12-play drive that lasted more than six minutes and ended with the tight end finding the end zone.
Mahomes ➡️ Kelce for 6️⃣ 🏹 pic.twitter.com/gL2BE2ZLAi
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 2, 2018
The Chiefs used a similar formula for its game-winning drive, leading to a Hunt touchdown. In the final quarter, Mahomes went 13-16 for 153 yards and a touchdown.
Miller and Bradley Chubb kept coming tantalizing close to a difference-making play, only to watch Mahomes wiggle away. The Broncos defense played really well and, still, it didn’t matter.
Even after the game was over, Denver’s All-Pro pass rusher was still frustrated by all of the near-misses.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 2, 2018
Phillip Lindsay vs. Bob Sutton’s Swiss Cheese
With Case Keenum struggling to find his rhythm in the Broncos offense, the team’s rushing offense has had to lead the way. Normally, having to rely on a pair of unheralded rookie running backs would be an issue, but Lindsay and Royce Freeman have proven to be up to the challenge.
The duo combined for 136 yards on 20 carries, good for a 6.8 average gain. They also accounted for both of Denver’s touchdowns. If Van Joseph and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had kept Keenum to 20 throws instead of 33, the Broncos probably win the game.
Rookie RBs @rolls_royce21 and @I_CU_Boy became just the fourth pair of rookie running backs in NFL history to rush for at least 65 yards and a TD for their team in the same game. pic.twitter.com/UBVo9gudjM
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 2, 2018
Sutton’s defense continues to struggle with tackling. The pass defense was helped tremendously by Keenum’s inaccuracy, even if Eric Murray did come up with an impressive interception.
The Broncos, like every other Kansas City opponent, made sure to know where Orlando Scandrick was and threw to whoever he was attempting to cover. The veteran corner’s pass interference on Courtland Sutton, leading to Denver’s final touchdown, was egregious enough that he might as well have hopped on the receiver’s back and taken a piggyback ride.
That said, Kansas City’s defense held when they had to, keeping the Broncos out of the end zone in the game’s closing minutes.
Sure, that’s only because Keenum threw long to a wide open Demaryius Thomas for what should’ve been an easy touchdown, but, hey, baby steps. With a defense this bad (Dee Ford excepted), you take victories wherever you can get them.
Now, the Chiefs defense gets an easier assignment — while the offense faces its stiffest test — when the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-1) come to Arrowhead. Jalen Ramsey‘s crew is giving just 14 points a game, while Mahomes and KC are averaging 36.2 points. Push is about to meet shove in what could easily be an AFC Championship preview.