The Broncos forced the Chiefs to kick field goals instead of score touchdowns, frustrated Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, pounded out the rushing yards -- 179 in all -- and hung around. But it wasn't quite enough in a 22-16 loss -- the 11th in a row for the Broncos against the Chiefs, and one that just might sting a little more than something more lopsided.
In the defending Super Bowl champions' stadium against the league's best quarterback, this was indeed a night for composure for the Broncos, for some grown-up, do-what-we-can-do patience. Especially from quarterback Drew Lock, whose second pass attempt was just the kind of impatient mistake that could have put the welcome mat out for yet another Chiefs rout.
The pass -- ill-advised as he threw it on the run, bypassing the easy completion to Nick Vannett right in front of him -- was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu. But unlike in games past, the Broncos and Lock hung in.
Coach Vic Fangio’s defense continued to be tough to decode in situational football -- on third down and in the red zone. The Chiefs’ first nine plays in the red zone netted them minus-3 yards as Kansas City (11-1) kicked three field goals, a semi-herculean feat for a Broncos defense that has mixed and matched all season.
Toss in two Tim Patrick touchdown catches and a secondary that held on just long enough and the Broncos (4-8) were in position for the upset special. They came up short, but should feel better about effort despite not getting the result they wanted.
Two words: Big. Night. It hasn’t been the smoothest of seasons for running back Melvin Gordon since he signed a two-year, $16 million deal in the offseason. There have been fumbles -- four lost -- and a DUI arrest earlier in the season.
But Gordon popped a 65-yard run on the Broncos’ fourth possession and finished with 105 yards rushing in the first half -- the first time since 2017 he had rushed for more than 100 yards in the opening half of a game. He finished with 131 rushing yards.
Promising trend: Left tackle Garett Bolles has certainly done his part this season, but the Broncos continue to show good things when they put guards Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow on the move. Risner was out in front on Gordon’s big run, and the two guards consistently carved out room against the Chiefs’ front. The Broncos did it plenty against the Dolphins two weeks ago and could show it more often down the stretch.
Biggest hole in game plan: Hard to complain much with the night Patrick had -- tough, strong to the ball and unflinching. That’s the just the kind of edge Denver needs throughout the offense. Jerry Jeudy had one target by the time the fourth quarter opened and he drew a penalty on the play. The rookie wide receiver didn't have a catch until the Broncos' final possession. He was hurting this past week, having been limited in practice with an ankle injury, but the Broncos are still waiting for Jeudy to impact the offense.
QB breakdown: Lock was under the microscope Sunday a week after missing a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints for breaking COVID-19 protocols. And when he had a completion and an interception in his first two pass attempts, it had the look of a lesson not learned. He evened things out nicely the rest of the way. The Broncos aren’t ready to get into a chuck-it-around festival with the Chiefs. But they can pound the ball in the run game and have Lock work the ball to the short and intermediate routes. It’s not a recipe that will have folks asking about Lock's swag, but is one that can help him keep the job into 2021.