By Hal Estep
The Kansas City Chiefs came into Arrowhead Stadium on a six game win streak against the Denver Broncos, and looked to make it seven on Sunday.
After yet another brilliant display by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ variety of offensive weapons, the Chiefs indeed made it a seven game win streak over the Broncos- and the second this year. With the win, the Chiefs are 3-0 in division play, and 19-1 in their last 20 games against the AFC West.
Both Mahomes and Broncos quarterback Case Keenum played much better than in the previous meeting. Mahomes had a slightly shaky start, but quickly returned to form with a four-touchdown, 303-yard performance. Keenum threw 2 touchdowns and an interception, which was an improvement compared to Oct. 1.
Running back Kareem Hunt played pretty well, and had the play of the game. On 4th-and-1, Hunt caught a shovel pass from Patrick Mahomes and broke free from the line of scrimmage. Broncos defensive back Will Parks lined Hunt up and went low, and whiffed on the tackle when Hunt hurdled over him. Denver safety Justin Simmons would be the last victim of this devastating play, as Hunt dragged him into the end zone for what was easily the most impressive play of the week.
The Chiefs pass rush feasted on Denver’s offensive line. It was more than effective, with defenders sacking Case Keenum five times. Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford was the standout of the group, recording three sacks on the day and forcing a fumble on one of those sacks. Dee Ford- playing in his contract year- is playing like a man possessed. He now has eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 8 games. If Ford keeps it up, he may be on his way to an All Pro season.
Defensive end Chris Jones and rookie linebacker Breeland Speaks also each had a sack. Jones now has a sack in four consecutive games, as he has imposed his will on opposing offensive linemen. Speaks had his best game of the season, recording his first career solo sack, and recovering a fumble.
While impressively rushing the passer, Speaks has been exposed on a few running plays. He lacks the speed to stop a running back from turning upfield on plays like sweeps or any runs towards the sideline. He’ll need to figure out a way to stop those plays if he wants to continue getting a hefty amount of snaps once Justin Houston returns from his hamstring injury.
Safety Ron Parker may be the most inconsistent member of the defense. Last week against the Bengals, he returned an interception for a touchdown and played well besides that highlight play. This week, he was burnt on two different huge gains for the Broncos. In the first quarter, Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders blew past Parker and caught a pass for a 49-yard gain. The Broncos would score on that drive. Then in the second quarter, Parker again blew his coverage and allow a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim Patrick. It was his first touchdown catch of his career.
Speaking of firsts, Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller intercepted his first pass as a Chief. He laid out and stole a catch from four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Fuller has played pretty well since being acquired from the Redskins in the Alex Smith trade in January.
Backup center Jordan Devey joined safety Eric Berry, linebacker Justin Houston and starting center Mitch Morse on the injured list. Devey suffered a torn pectoral and was placed on injured reserve. Austin Reiter started in place of Devey, and played decently. The line struggled at first against the pressure that the Broncos defense brought, but performed better as the game went on. Safety Daniel Sorensen returned to the practice field in the week leading up to the game, but did not play. Sorensen being back should pay dividends for a defense that can’t stop the run to save its life.
The Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers are running away with the division, as the Broncos fall another game back and the Raiders remain in the cellar. Next Sunday, the Chiefs travel to Cleveland and take on Baker Mayfield and the Browns at noon on CBS. This should be an interesting matchup- it’s the Browns’ first game after firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.