There are no more undefeated teams in the NFL after Denver eased past Kansas City last Sunday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Broncos came out and controlled the pace in this hard-hitting affair and held on for a 27-17 win behind Peyton Manning, who played on a sore ankle which he injured the week before in a victory over the San Diego Chargers.
“My right ankle was fine,’’ said Manning, who has thrown 34 touchdowns after his slant pass to tight end Julius Thomas (43 yards on three catches) with 3:03 left in the opening quarter that put the Broncos ahead 10-0. “My offensive line gave me good protection.”
Manning’s 70-yard toss to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (121 yards on five receptions) set up the score.
The Chiefs are legitimate even if they haven’t played a team with a winning record except the Broncos, as quarterback Alex Smith pulled Kansas City within 10 points when he hit tight end Anthony Fasano (37 yards on four catches) with a 10-yard bullet in the back of the end zone as 4:56 was left in the fourth quarter.
Denver interim Head Coach Jack Del Rio, whose college team, the USC Trojans, pulled off an incredible 20-17 upset win over No. 5 Stanford at the Coliseum the night before on Andre Heidari’s 47-yard field goal in the waning moments, opted for enough runs to give Manning’s gimpy ankle a rest.
“We didn’t want to throw the ball 45 times,’’ said Manning, who connected on 24 of 40 for 323 yards with no interceptions. “We wanted to be balanced.”
The Broncos ran 36 times for 104 yards with Knowshon Moreno collecting 79 yards on a game-best 27 carries, while rookie Montee Ball had 25 yards on eight rushes including a one-yard surge up the middle with 9:05 showing in the second quarter that pushed Denver (427 total net yards) ahead, 17-7.
“We did a great job in the red zone,’’ said Manning, who wasn’t sacked despite not being the fastest player on the field. “They like to force you into taking field goals.”
The night’s scoring began when Matt Prater drilled a 54-yard field goal for the Broncos (9-1) with 12:33 left in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead.
Prater’s 36-yarder with 7:06 remaining in the final quarter boosted Denver’s lead to 27-10.
Smith, a one-time No. 1 overall selection by San Francisco, has been called a “game manager,” meaning not much is asked of him.
This may be true, but Smith (21 of 45 for 230 yards and no interceptions) was able to get the 49ers to the NFC title game in 2011 and was the starter the next season until he sustained a concussion.
In stepped Colin Kaepernick, who took over and marched San Francisco to the Super Bowl, which led to Smith’s departure.
Smith, who was sacked three times, engineered Kansas City to nine straight wins and also tossed a six-yard strike to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (57 yards on four receptions) early in the second quarter that capped an 11-play, 80-yard march and got the Chiefs (9-1) to within three points.
Ryan Succop’s 20-yard field goal with just under three minutes left before the half cut Denver’s lead to 17-10, and gave the Chiefs (344 total yards) some confidence heading into the second half.
The Chiefs had 144 yards on the ground as Jamaal Charles finished with a team-best 78 yards on 16 carries, while Smith added 52 yards on five rushes.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.