KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said his team would have to play the perfect game to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
They fell woefully short of that goal in a 17-9 loss on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Seven penalties, including false starts by four different players — offensive tackle Eric Winston, guard Jon Asamoah, tight end Steve Maneri and running back Jamaal Charles — stalled an offense that failed to reach the end zone for the second straight game.
Two of the false starts, Crennel said, were instigated by Broncos defensive players, who mimicked the snap cadence by their former teammate, Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn, causing Kansas City players to move.
“The official doesn’t know whether it’s a defensive check or what exactly has happened,” Crennel said, “so we jump because we thought it was part of the quarterback command.”
Shouting out signals like that is illegal, but as Chiefs center Ryan Lilja said, “Somebody once said, ‘If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.’ They didn’t get caught, and we got penalized.”
Asamoah’s false start came on third and 1 at the Denver 41 midway through the fourth quarter when the Chiefs trailed 14-9. That forced the Chiefs to throw on third and 6, and even if Quinn’s pass intended for Dwayne Bowe would have picked up the first down, it would have been nullified by a holding call on rookie left tackle Donald Stephenson.
“It’s not just Denver,” Winston said of simulating the quarterback’s signals. “A lot of teams do that. But you’ve got to stay onsides. I’ve got to stay onsides, we all have to stay on-ides. It’s just on us.”
Stephenson, starting at left tackle in place of Branden Albert, also was called for a borderline clip in the third quarter that turned an 11-yard completion to Bowe for a first down into a 4-yard loss. Two plays later, Charles was called for his false start on a third-and-1 play.
“It was me trying to do too much,” said Stephenson, who was hustling to throw a downfield block on Denver nose tackle Justin Bannan. “I’ll learn from it. It’s something I probably get away with in college. But I guess the refs are a little better.”
Other than the one penalty against Stephenson that was accepted by the Broncos, he had a pretty solid day stepping in for Albert and facing the NFL’s leader in sacks and No. 6-ranked overall defense.
Denver brought in the league’s top 1-2 sack combination in linebacker Von Miller and defensive end Elvis Dumervil — who was lined up against Stephenson most of the time — and Stephenson didn’t allow either to get to Quinn.
Miller’s 14th sack of the season was on an open-field tackle of Quinn, who was scrambling; and Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard beat running back Shaun Draughn for the Broncos’ other sack.
“A lot went into it,” said Stephenson, a product of Blue Springs High School and the Chiefs’ third-round pick from Oklahoma. “The quarterback did a good job getting the ball out. The tight ends chipped … but I did watch a lot of film and worked hard this week.”
The Chiefs, with Stephenson lined up next to fellow rookie left guard Jeff Allen, rushed for 148 yards and a 4.8-yard average against Denver, which was allowing just 93.8 yards and a 3.5 average going into the game.
“We had to do a great job with the running game because the Broncos are good on third down,” Stephenson said. “We didn’t want to get in any third-and-long situations.”
Both Lilja and Quinn appreciated the performance by both Stephenson and Allen against such a formidable pass rush.
“I don’t think they’re playing like rookies anymore,” Lilja said. “That’s something we need on the line if we want to win any games from here on out. I love the way they fight … “
Although the Chiefs didn’t cross the goal line, Quinn said it was no fault of the offensive line.
“Our offensive line did a heck of a job,” Quinn said. “You look at a young guy like Donald Stephenson and presented with a tough task like that, he really stepped up to the plate and did a great job. They had a tough assignment this week with what we asked of them …”
It just wasn’t perfect.