The Chiefs’ 30-6 victory over the Denver Broncos Thursday night will be remembered by fans for notes happy and sad.
Patrick Mahomes’ knee injury was worst fears realized. The dynamic young quarterback was already playing through an ankle injury. This incident — a dislocated knee — likely will force Mahomes to miss games because of an injury for the first time in his NFL career.
But the victory over the rival Broncos ended a two-game losing streak and was the Chiefs’ most complete victory of the season. They improved to 5-2 and continue to lead the AFC West.
The defense and special teams had their best game of the season, and even with Mahomes out, the Chiefs outscored the Broncos 20-0.
KC Star of the Game
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens had his best game in a Chiefs uniform. He came up with two sacks and forced the fumble that was recovered by Reggie Ragland for a scoop and score. The entire defense could get a game ball for its response to recent failings.
Reason to hope: A tweet by Royals Vice President of Communications Mike Swanson provides the reason: “I vividly remember Mike Livingston subbing for six games when Len Dawson suffered knee injury in ‘69. End result? Super Bowl Champs. Think positive thoughts y’all.”
Reason to mope: The ‘Oh, no’ moment occurred in the second quarter. Mahomes’ diagnosis as soon as Friday will determine the team’s fate going forward.
Next: The Chiefs will get to watch football this weekend and begin to prepare for a visit from the Green Bay Packers. The game on Oct. 27 will kick off at 7:20 p.m.
Passing offense: B
Mahomes was having a Mahomes game, mostly with short stuff. He was 10 of 11 for 76 yards with a touchdown and a 125.8 passer rating. Matt Moore was understandably shaky early in his relief appearance. Then the 11-year NFL veteran put great touch on a 57-yard touchdown strike to Tyreek Hill in the third quarter. Moore finished 10 of 19 for 117 yards and no picks.
Rushing offense: B
It had to be better if the Chiefs wanted to reverse the embarrassing time of possession stats from their previous two games, and if they wanted to shorten the game with Mahomes out. That’s what happened. LeSean McCoy rumbled for 64 yards.
Passing defense: A
Phenomenal pass rush by the blitzing, chance-taking unit was the Chiefs at their best. They were excellent before the Mahomes injury and even better afterward. The Chiefs won the battle up front. Quarterback Joe Flacco and the Broncos’ offensive line was hounded all evening. The final tally: nine sacks. Two each by Hitchens, Frank Clark and Alex Okafor.
Rushing defense: A
Maybe the Chiefs should make every week a short week of practice. The defense played with great energy and speed. The linebackers, a unit that had come under much criticism in recent weeks, led the charge. But everyone chipped in for this inspirational effort. The Broncos finished with 71 rushing yards.
Special teams: A
Mecole Hardman’s 37-yard punt return was the longest of the season and it set up a Harrison Butker field goal. Armani Watts alertly held his ground on a fake punt attempt and sacked punter Colby Wadman for loss. Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, whose evening got busier after the Mahomes injury, also was money.
Blaming of Andy Reid or offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for the quarterback sneak that injured Mahomes’ knee will occur. But injuries don’t often happen on that play. Mahomes had injured his ankle originally on a sack in the opener. He re-injured it on pass attempts in each of the last two weeks.
There is no disputing how well prepared the Chiefs were for this game. The Broncos rode a two-game winning streak, the Chiefs a two-game losing streak. But after the opening series, it was all Chiefs. This was the best game of the season for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and special teams coordinator Dave Toub.