KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three straight three-and-outs set the table for the Chiefs second straight poor showing on national television.
Wide receiver Donnie Avery’s fourth-quarter fumble, the Chiefs’ third turnover of the game, with 3:55 left on the clock culminated a 29-16 Denver win.
Denver (9-3) showed up in the Sunday Night Football matchup with 388 total yards of offense compared to the Chiefs’ (7-5) 151 yards.
The AFC West-leading Broncos dominated time of possession, controlling the clock 38:47, almost doubling the Chiefs mark of 21:13.
Making matter worse is the Chiefs had 10 days to prepare for the Broncos.
“There’s really not a phase that I can point to you that was a positive in this game,” coach Andy Reid said. “I do know we have a high character team and that they will work like crazy to get back and do better than this.”
Kansas City’s offense was nonexistent in the first half, posting negative 10 yards while Denver put up 238 yards.
Denver elected to utilize running back C.J. Anderson early and often in its 8-play, 74-yard opening touchdown drive.
Anderson rushed 17 times for 80 yards in the first half. He also scored on a 15-yard touchdown grab from quarterback Peyton Manning. The second year back out of the University of California finished with 168 yards on 32 attempts. The Broncos totaled 214 yards rushing on the game.
Reid acknowledges rushing defense is an issue after the Chiefs have allowed 200-plus yards rushing in two of the last three games.
“Their ability to run the football also adds another dimension to that offense,” he said. “So you’ve got to be able to shut down one or the other and we weren’t shutting down either. We’ve got to do better there.”
Manning has enjoyed Anderson’s production.
“C.J. was a workhorse tonight,” Manning said. “He has been really special and the offensive line has created some holes. It’s been huge for us.”
Linebacker Justin Houston wrecked havoc when he sacked and stripped Manning on the opening possession of the second half, marking Houston’s 14 sack on the season.
The Chiefs had to settle for Cairo Santos’ 14th straight field goal from 39 yards out to cut the Denver lead to 10.
The Kansas City defense forced a three-and-out to ignite the Arrowhead Stadium crowd, but the energy would only last so long as Denver created a turnover of its own.
Broncos defensive lineman Terrance Knighton tipped Alex Smith’s pass in the air as Demarcus Ware grabbed the floating ball and was tackled at the Chiefs’ 13-yard line.
Denver capitalized with one of former Chiefs kicker Connor Barth’s five field goals. Denver would not look back from there as they promptly put the Chiefs away.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles summed up the mood in the locker room Sunday night.
“We’re in the fourth quarter of the season,” he said. “We can either get better or get worse, that’s where we go from here.”
Teammates honor Berry
Chiefs players commemorated safety Eric Berry by wearing shirts under uniforms that read “Be Bold Be Brave Be Berry.”
“It’s a tough situation for our brother to go down like that and be put in that situation where he really has no control over,” Kelce said. “It rips your heart out but at the same time you want to do better for him and things like that.”
The 25-year old is in Atlanta awaiting test results regarding a possible lymphoma after discovering mass in his chest.
The team also elected to sport all red jerseys, which is Berry’s reported favorite look.
Donnie Avery returned from his 7-game absence after having a sports hernia procedure.
Avery called his first game back “a little rusty.”
“Just wanted to be out here with my teammates and not be at home looking at the game, so I’m glad I was out here with them today,” he said. “I made a big mistake for the team (his fumble), we’ll put this behind us and get ready for next week.”
Avery had one catch for 20 yards in the fourth quarter along with two targets.
Wide receiver Jason Avant made his first and second catches as a member of the Chiefs.
“There were a few things that I had to learn how to run today,” Avant said. “But for the most part I felt pretty good about everything. My coach, (Chiefs wide receivers coach David) Culley did a good job. He got me up to speed to come out to play the game tonight. It didn’t help us get a win, though.”
Avant caught two catches for 30 yards with four targets.
Defensive end Allen Bailey sustained a concussion and did not finish the game, guard Mike McGlynn suffered a quad contusion and linebacker James-Michael Johnson dealt with back spasms near the end of the game.
The Chiefs travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals (9-3).
The game will air at 3:05 CT on CBS.