KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Kansas City Chiefs proved last night they can play a little defence, too.
The same group that struggled to contain the Steelers and Raiders in back-to-back losses shut down Denver, picking off Trevor Siemian three times, picking up two fumbles, and taking one of them back for a touchdown in a 29-19 victory over their AFC West rivals.
It was precisely the kind of dominant performance the Chiefs (6-2) needed against the Broncos (3-4), whose own league-leading defence held Alex Smith and Co. in check all night.
“Our defence really stepped up tonight,” said Chiefs' coach Andy Reid.
“They showed a lot of fire.”
Harrison Butker kicked five field goals for Kansas City while Smith threw for 202 yards and a touchdown.
Most of it went to Travis Kelce, who hauled in seven balls for 133 yards and the score.
But it was the turnovers that proved to be the difference in the game.
“That's insane,” said Broncos' coach Vance Joseph, who declined to say whether a quarterback change may be necessary.
“You can't win when you turn the ball over five times,” he stressed.
“The guys worked too hard to have a big game to give it away five times.”
Siemian finished 19-of-36 for 198 yards and a touchdown, and now has thrown eight picks and only three TD passes in the past five games.
The Broncos have lost all but one of them.
“I just turned it over," he said glumly. "A couple of bad decisions.”
It was a crucial bounce-back win for the Chiefs, who had their 12-game AFC West winning streak snapped 10 days ago in Oakland.
The Chiefs had won five-straight to start the season before losing to the Steelers and then to the Raiders on Derek Carr's last-second touchdown throw.
It started just like old times, too: Jamaal Charles with a run, the Chiefs with a touchdown.
The only difference was Charles, who went to four Pro Bowls with the Chiefs, was back in Kansas City with the Broncos.
And the TD came when the opportunistic Marcus Peters stripped him, picked up the loose ball, and returned it 45 yards for the opening score.
“That definitely changed the dynamic of the game,” said Chiefs' defensive tackle Chris Jones.
When the Chiefs were on offence, they went right to Kelce, who also had success against the Broncos in both of their meetings last season.
He beat Darian Stewart for a 29-yard TD catch and a 14-0 lead.
“I want the ball every single play. That's just how I grew up playing,” Kelce said.
The Chiefs were threatening to put the game out of reach later in the first quarter when Reid got cute with the play-calling.
Rather than keep the ball in the hands of Smith, who hasn't thrown a pick all season, he let wide receiver Tyreek Hill throw it—and he was intercepted in the end zone.
“I messed it up myself," Hill said. "I know Coach Reid isn't going to let me throw another one.”
Still, Kansas City led 20-3 when the Broncos' offence finally found some rhythm.
They marched 60 yards to set up their second field goal by Brandon McManus, then capped an 80-yard drive with Booker's touchdown run.
It was just the second time Denver had reached the end zone in 13-plus quarters, but it got them within 20-13 with a quarter to play.
Butker answered with another field goal, and the Chiefs' defence held on fourth-and-4 near midfield to get the ball back.
Butker added two more field goals, the last with 4:41 left, giving him 18-straight made attempts and putting the game out of reach.
“It's not what you want offensively,” Smith said with a wry grin.
“You love having him on the team and making those, but I'd rather have him kicking PATs.”