DENVER — Expectations of a physical football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos proved accurate in the first half, with neither team’s offense mustering much of a threat and defense and special teams providing all the points in 9-3 Chiefs halftime lead.
Temperatures plunging into the 30s and a bitter winds created a challenging environment for both teams. The teams waged a fierce field position battle for much of the first half.
Miscues by the Broncos special teams proved critical in the first half. A penalty on Denver’s first punt of the game helped the Chiefs improve their filed position by nearly 30 yards. Punt returner Tyreek Hill was thrown for a loss inside the Chiefs 10-yard line, but the penalty provided Hill a second chance. He returned the second punt to the 34-yard line.
Another special teams error, this one by Broncos punt returner Jordan Norwood, setup the Chiefs first points of the game. Norwood juggled a Dustin Colquitt punt, pinning the Broncos at their own 5-yard line.
Three plays later, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston picked up his third sack of the game, jarring the ball loose from quaterback Trevor Siemian. The Broncos recovered the ball in the end zone for safety.
On the next play, Hill returned the free kick from the Broncos 86-yards for a touchdown, making the score 9-0.
The Broncos responded with the best offensive drive for either team of the first half, picking up a field goal just under the two-minute warning.
The Chiefs finished the first half with 49 yards of offense, while the Broncos picked up 124. Alex Smith finished 5-of-12 passing for 26 yards. Spencer Ware added 29 yards on the ground on eight carries, while Travis Kelce picked up 15 yards on one reception.
Start off second half strong
The Chiefs start the second half with the ball, and they need a long scoring drive to set the tone for the second half. The Broncos stunted a bit of the Chiefs momentum with their field goal to end the second half. The Chiefs extending their lead to two scores on a blustery night where the defense is prevailing would be huge to the chances.
Third down has proven to be a nemesis for the Chiefs on both sides of the ball. That remains true on offensive with the team just 1-of-6 on third down conversions.
But the defense responded in a big way in the first half, limiting the Broncos to just two conversions on nine attempts. Much of that success is due to a strong pass rush.
The Chiefs need to convert third downs to maintain the lead while the defense continues holding off the Broncos.
Keep the pressure on Siemian
The Chiefs have four sacks in the first half, including three from Houston. The veteran linebacker left the game following his third sack that led to the safety, but returned to the sideline and expects to play in the second half.
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe left the game after exacerbating his back injury, and is questionable to return. If Poe remains out, it’s contingent on Chris Jones, Rakeem-Nunez Roches and Kendall Reyes creating pressure up front and allowing Houston and Tamba Hali an opportunity to keep the edge rush working.