Peyton Manning looked excellent despite two ailing ankles. It didn't hurt that he wasn't touched all night.
The Chiefs came in leading the league with 36 sacks through nine games. For perspective's sake, entering Week 11, no NFL team other than the Chiefs had more than 31 sacks. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali came in with nine-plus sacks each.
And it didn't matter at all on Sunday night.
Manning's injuries. The Chiefs' ferocious front seven. It had zero impact on the game.
Peyton was Peyton. He didn't have a four-touchdown game, but he didn't throw any interceptions. He went 24-of-40 for 323 yards and a touchdown. He moved the Broncos down the field when he had to, including three touchdown drives which went 79, 65 and 62 yards each.
He did so behind an offensive line that had its finest performance of the season. In a game where it went up against the NFL's No. 1 defense in numerous categories other than sacks—including points per game (12.8) and turnovers forced (23)—Denver's offense line shut down Kansas City's defensive front seven.
The Chiefs didn't have any sacks. In fact, through the first half, they didn't pressure Manning a single time.
Broncos left tackle Chris Clark, who has replaced franchise tackle Ryan Clady due to Clady's season-ending injury, left Manning unscathed. Clark was that good.
There have been several moments this season where Clark has been burned off of the edge. In his first start in place of Clady versus the Oakland Raiders, Clark gave up a sack on Manning which caused a fumble. He did the same versus the Chargers last week, when Chargers linebacker Tourek Williams beat him off of the edge for a strip sack and fumble on Manning. Clark also struggled versus Colts defensive end Robert Mathis in Mathis' two-sack game during the Colts' 39-33 victory over the Broncos in Week 7.
But in Week 11 versus the Chiefs, the career backup tackle was flawless against the NFL's most lethal defense.
What did this game show? What can one conclude after the Broncos' 27-17 victory over the NFL's last undefeated team?
The Broncos are on another level.
The Chiefs are a class below their AFC West counterparts.
Yes, we have another game between the two AFC West rivals in two weeks in Arrowhead. Maybe the Chiefs will be a little more competitive in front of their home crowd. Maybe Manning will be roughed up this time.
But it won't change the bottom line—the Broncos are better than the Chiefs. Not just better, but a notch above Kansas City.
All you heard all game long from commentators and NBC personalities were how the Chiefs impressed. They stayed in the game from start to finish. The Chiefs showed how they belonged in the same class as the Broncos.
Here were the Chiefs—the 9-0 Kansas City Chiefs—visiting Mile High to face their AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos, for the division lead and the inside track to be the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and you're playing the moral victory card?
There were no moral victories here for the Chiefs.
If not getting blown out by the Broncos is a victory and a good sign for your team, then you must have really low standards. For those who claimed this was a "moral victory" for the Chiefs because they weren't blown out by the Broncos, this just demonstrates that you don't view the Chiefs on the same level as the Broncos.
Leading toward the end of the game, NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth remarked on how this game showed that the Chiefs could play with the Broncos. That this game was a "victory" of sorts for them.
Why? Because they lost by only 10 points?
If anything, this game proved what most suspected all along—the Broncos are the AFC's team to beat. The Chiefs aren't in their league.
Kansas City's intimidating defense did not pressure Manning. When the defense forced stops in the third quarter with the Chiefs down just 17-10, how did their offense respond?
Three consecutive drives of absolutely nothing.
Yes, the Alex Smith-led Chiefs offense went three consecutive drives of nothing when the defense held the Manning-led Broncos to three consecutive drives of punts to start the second half.
Twelve plays, 16 yards and zero points on three drives.
What happened after those three unproductive drives?
Manning and the Broncos offense got their act together. As they've done all season long. After Montee Ball scored a touchdown to put the Broncos up 24-10, the Chiefs got the ball back, and the offense had another chance to respond late in the third quarter.
What did the Chiefs do?
Well, the offense finally moved the football. They drove from their 8-yard line 51 yards down the field—to punt the football.
Yes, to punt the football.
At the Denver 41-yard line on a 4th-and-7 with the Broncos leading by 14 points with 12 minutes remaining in the game, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid elected to punt the football.
Game. Set. Match.
What did this game show?
What all of us thought all along.
The Chiefs still have a quarterback who can't win games when forced to score. The offense can't win games when the defense doesn't completely shut down the opposing team's offense.
And most importantly?
The Chiefs play it safe.
They played it safe early on in the fourth quarter when they elected to punt instead of going for it on 4th-and-7 in Denver territory. Smith played it safe again when he completed a pass to Jamaal Charles for negative yardage on the Chiefs' first play of their last drive with 45 seconds remaining in the game. He played it safe yet again two plays later when he did the same thing on the final play of the game.
They played it safe all game long, and where does safe get you versus the Broncos? Where does safe get you versus the elite teams of the NFL?
The Chiefs are a good team. They should be proud of themselves after rebounding from a 2-14 season last year to being the playoff-bound team that they are today. They will go to the playoffs.
But they are not an elite team.
The Chiefs were outmatched by the Broncos Sunday night. The score may not show it, but the play on the field sure did.
While some media pundits may consider this a "victory" for the Chiefs, their opinion of this game and the play on the field proved one thing.
The Broncos are a class above the Chiefs.