Knowshon Moreno wasn't in over his head starting for the injured Willis McGahee.
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Denver Broncos, but an ugly win and a pretty win all count the same in the standings. The Broncos survived a trip to Kansas City with a 17-9 victory over the ghastly Chiefs to move to 8-3 on the season.
With the win the Broncos now have as many wins as the other three AFC West teams combined and can secure the AFC West title with a win in Week 13.
The Broncos had 10 possessions as the Chiefs used Jamaal Charles to wisely keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands. Manning was able to turn three of the 10 possessions into 17 points. As it turns out, 10 points was all that was needed because the Chiefs were not able to get the ball into the end zone on Denver’s defense.
Manning still threw two touchdowns, including a 30-yard touchdown pass thrown perfectly to Demaryius Thomas and had one pass intercepted. The Broncos also converted half of their third-down attempts, so maybe the win wasn’t as ugly as the low scoring would indicate.
The Broncos had not scored fewer than 21 points all season but would have eclipsed that mark if not for a couple of missed field goals by Matt Prater. The Broncos still had scoring opportunities on half of their offensive possessions.
The defense stepped up again and held the Chiefs to 3-of-14 on third down and didn’t allow the Chiefs to score touchdowns on either of their two trips into the red zone. The Chiefs had exactly one play over 20 yards, a 21-yard pass from Brady Quinn to Tony Moeaki in the second quarter. Von Miller registered his 14th sack, and the Broncos forced six punts and allowed just three field goals.
Manning didn’t have his best day, but he was supported by a competent running game thanks to the work of Knowshon Moreno. Moreno was the unexpected choice to start in place of the injured Willis McGahee and carried the ball 20 times for 85 yards and added four catches for 26 yards to put him over 100 yards on the day.
Perhaps it was seven straight punts by the Colquitt brothers—Dustin and Britton—that made the game seem so ugly. After Dustin and the Chiefs punted for the sixth time in the game with just over six minutes remaining, Manning and the Broncos burned off all but 18 seconds of the clock and added an insurance field goal.
Manning continues to spread the wealth in the passing game and completed four passes each to Thomas, Moreno, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme. Manning also spread the targets around evenly with eight for Thomas and Decker and seven to Stokley and Tamme.
Meanwhile, Trindon Holliday continues to be a valuable mid-season addition as a weapon on special teams. Holliday’s 50-yard kick return set up a 47-yard field goal that Prater would push right, and his 42-yard kick return to start the second half set up a 33-yard field goal attempt that hit the left upright. Unfortunately Holliday’s efforts were wasted against the Chiefs, but his continued production bodes well for the Broncos going forward.
The Broncos have demonstrated the ability to come from behind, as well as the ability to win either a shootout or come up with an ugly win on the road. On Sunday against the Chiefs, the Broncos proved they could win ugly when opponents control the ball and try to keep it out of Manning’s hands.
The only thing the Broncos haven’t proven is the ability to beat good teams. A road game against the Baltimore Ravens looms in Week 15, and until then, the Broncos need do no more than what they have been doing on offense, defense and special teams.
It doesn’t have to be flashy if the end result is still a win.