DENVER — Before his team’s showdown with the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, Chiefs coach Andy Reid stressed two priorities.
Creating turnovers and scoring points.
The Chiefs fell short in both areas on Sunday night and fell 27-17 to Denver for their first loss of the season in a nationally televised game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The defeat dropped the Chiefs, 9-1, into a tie for first place in the AFC West and for the best record in the AFC with the Broncos, who will come to Arrowhead Stadium for the rematch on Dec. 1.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who came into the game with a much-publicized ankle sprain, completed 24 of 43 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown; and the Chiefs’ NFL-sack-leading defense didn’t lay a hand on him. Rookie running back Montee Ball ran for a pair of touchdowns for Denver.
The Chiefs, who lead the NFL in takeaways, appeared to force a huge turnover with 5:36 left in the first quarter when Manning and Ball botched a handoff, and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson recovered the fumble at the Denver 29 and returned it 11 yards to the Broncos 18.
However, on the Chiefs’ first play on the ensuing possession, fullback Anthony Sherman gave the ball right back, as he fumbled at the end of a two-yard pass reception when hit by linebacker Danny Trevathan. Denver cornerback Quintin Jammer recovered at the Broncos 16.
The Broncos wasted little time converting the turnover into a touchdown.
Manning arched a pass down the sidelines for Dermaryius Thomas, who had a step on rookie cornerback and Marcus Cooper. Thomas hauled in the pass about midfield and went 70 yards — the longest pass play against the Chiefs this season — to the Chiefs’ 9, where safety Quintin Demps shoved him out of bounds.
Two plays later, Manning threw a slant to tight end Julius Thomas, who had a step on strong safety Eric Berry for a 9-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead with 3:03 left in the quarter.
The Chiefs, unaccustomed to playing from behind this season, never could overcome the deficit.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who also threw two touchdown passes, brought the Chiefs to within 27-17 with a 10-yard pass to Anthony Fasano with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to play. Fasano’s leaping catch in the back of the end zone was at first ruled incomplete, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid challenged the call, and it was overturned when referee John Parry said Fasano came down in bounds with possession.
The 24 points scored by Denver represented the most by any opponent in any of the Chiefs’ first nine games but the fewest by the Broncos this season.
The Chiefs’ 17 points matched their season low, set against Dallas and Houston.
The Broncos took a 24-10 lead with the only touchdown of the third quarter, an eight-yard run by Ball with 2:22 left in the period.
Manning completed all three of his passes on the drive for 46 yards, including a 33-yarder to Eric Decker, who took advantage of a pick by Wes Welker to advance to the Chiefs 14.
Broncos kicker Matt Prater padded the lead to 27-10 with a 36-yard field goal with 7:06 to play in the game.
The Broncos led 17-10 at halftime in an emotionally charged first half that was punctuated by 10 penalties that were accepted and several that were declined.
When Denver jumped to leads of 10-0 and 17-7, they were the biggest deficits the Chiefs faced all season, but they kept trading punches with the high-scoring Broncos.
The Chiefs went three-and-out in two of their first three possessions, which sandwiched a 54-yard field goal by Denver’s Prater with 12:33 to go in the first quarter.
The Chiefs drew within 10-7 with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Dwayne Bowe with 13:23 left in the second quarter.
Smith marched the Chiefs 80 yards in 11 plays and was aided by three Denver penalties — an encroachment on the first play of the drive; a defensive holding call on former Kansas cornerback Chris Harris; and a taunting call against Denver safety Duke Ihenacho, who was jawing with Jamaal Charles after an incompletion on a second-and-eight from the 12.
Given a first down at the 6, Smith found Charles in the flat, but he dropped the pass while looking to run before he caught it.
After a pass intended for Bowe went incomplete, Smith found Bowe in the corner of the end zone for his third touchdown of the season but first since the fourth game of the season on Sept. 29 against the Giants.
Bowe, who had a trying week after an arrest for speeding and marijuana possession, caught a pass for 26 yards on the drive.
The Broncos rebuilt their 10-point lead with a long drive of their own, capped by a 1-yard run by Ball with 9:05 left in the first half.
Manning completed five of six passes on the drive, including an 11-yarder to Demaryius Thomas, who beat Cooper; a deep-middle pass of 20 yards to Julius Thomas; and a 29-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas. Cooper was also called for defensing holding while trying to stay with Demaryius Thomas, which gave Denver a first down at the Chiefs 14.
On the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, Charles bolted for a season-long 35-yard run, giving the offense a chance to tie the score. Coach Andy Reid soon was faced with a decision late in the second quarter when the Chiefs faced a fourth-and-a-long 1 at the Denver 1. He elected to send Ryan Succop out for a 20-yard field goal that made it 17-10 with 2:55 left in the half.
Problem was, that gave Manning and the Broncos a possession to end the half, as well as to open the second half.
The Broncos moved the ball to the Chiefs’ 34, but Prater, who had been 13-of-13 this season, including four from 50-yards plus, was wide left on a 52-yarder with 32 seconds left in the half.
So the Chiefs did have one more possession, starting at their 42 with 32 seconds remaining in the half. A pass to Bowe for 16 yards moved the ball to the Denver 42 with 23 seconds left, but Smith was then sacked for a nine-yard loss.
After the Chiefs reached their 49, Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard was called for defensive holding with no time left, giving the Chiefs a final play from the Broncos 46.
At first, Reid sent Succop out, ostensibly to try to make what would have been an NFL-record 64-yard field goal. But then he sent the offense back onto the field, and Smith ended the half with a meaningless 25-yard scramble.