Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters took just three plays into Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field in Denver, Colo. to show that he doesn’t care about the legendary career of quarterback Peyton Manning. Peters intercepted Manning’s first pass of the game and the rookie set the tone for Kansas City’s 29-13 beatdown of Denver that puts the Chiefs firmly back in the playoff race and might have brought the curtain down on the future Hall-of-Famer’s career.
In front of a frenzied home crowd expecting a win from their 7-1 team that would make Manning the NFL’s all-time leader in wins, and waiting to witness him break Brett Favre’s all-time career passing yard record, the Chiefs defense outplayed, outhustled and overmatched Denver’s struggling offense from the get-go. After Peters’ interception gave the Chiefs the ball on Denver’s 31-yard line, the Chiefs offense took just five plays for running back Charcandrick West to plow into the end zone from four yards out, giving the Chiefs a 7-0 lead that they would never come close to relinquishing.
While the defense clamped down and suffocated Manning, the Chiefs offense did just enough to protect the ball and the lead. Everyone in the world knows that the Chiefs five turnovers at Arrowhead in Week 2 was the main reason the Broncos laughed their way out of KC with the most improbable 31-24 win ever. But on Sunday, the Chiefs had zero turnovers and for the most part, refused to shoot itself in the foot every time something good happened.
Cairo Santos hit five of six field goal attempts and quarterback Alex Smith found West in the fourth quarter for an 80-yard touchdown pass that put KC up 29-0 in front of a morbidly silent Denver crowd. The Chiefs raised their record to 4-5 and sit only one game out of the final wild card playoff spot. No, that is not a misprint.
However, what most Chiefs fans will remember is that it was THEIR team that intercepted Manning four times on the day and ultimately got him benched for the first time in his career midway through the third quarter. At the time, Kansas City was up 22-0 and Manning was suffering through his worst day as a pro – a span of 291 games.
By the time Denver head coach Gary Kubiak threw in the towel on his starting quarterback’s day, Manning had completed just five of twenty passes for 35 yards and those four interceptions. Manning’s quarterback rating in the first half was 0.00 as he looked old, slow and possibly injured. After the game, Kubiak said that perhaps he shouldn’t have played Manning after the QB missed the entire week of practice, which might qualify as one of the bigger “No duh!” statements ever by a coach.
As the 39-year old Peyton sat on the bench in disbelief and possibly contemplating his future, Brock Osweiler got his first snaps of the season. And while the back-up put up some decent numbers against a soft, bend-but-don’t-break defensive scheme the Chiefs were playing, at no time did anyone ever think that Denver was going to complete another gut-punching comeback. The final big Chiefs Red Cherry on top of this satisfying sundae came when safety Eric Berry added one more turnover for the Chiefs defense by intercepting Osweiler in the end zone.
For reasons that looked like sheer joy coming from one of the Chiefs veteran players who has been on the wrong end of punishing wins by the Broncos throughout his career, the combination of a virtual lock of a win by the Chiefs and the fact he beat cancer this year and is doing the thing he loves most, Berry inexplicably ran the ball back onto the field of play instead of just downing it in the end zone. Body language is a powerful thing and it looked like Berry was just so happy he didn’t want the play to end. Berry broke several tackles before finally getting hauled down at the KC 20-yard line and on the next play, Smith hit West for the 80-yard score that was almost the entire offensive output in the second half. It was further proof that Sunday was just going to be the Chiefs day.
Despite it being a far from perfect performance from the Chiefs, the win sets the stage for what is now going to be an interesting second half of the season. Where once fans were angrily wishing the Chiefs would lose all their games and finish the season 1-15 after the loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Chiefs now have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL and their key games in the playoff run come at Arrowhead. KC travels out to San Diego next week to face the 2-7 Chargers and their other personal nemesis, Philip Rivers. It should be fun ….