KANSAS CITY, Mo. – To gain some appreciation for what the Denver Broncos did Sunday, take a look at the Steelers.
Many good NFL teams suffer inexplicable losses. The Steelers, the defending Super Bowl champs who beat AFC West frontrunners Denver and San Diego this season, lost to Kansas City last month and lost to Oakland at home on Sunday. Oakland and Kansas City have seven wins combined.
Denver’s 44-13 victory over Kansas City on Sunday wasn’t thrilling, but it was thorough. The Broncos refused to play down to the competition, never trailing in a game that had few tense moments. The Broncos are now 8-4, and the Chiefs fell to 3-9.
Denver won’t have any problem getting up next week against 12-0 Indianapolis, but collecting wins against losing teams like the Chiefs and the Raiders might ultimately get the Broncos into the playoffs.
“They came out here and played with a lot of energy today,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “We knew we would be the only ones to bring it today from our side, and I thought they were really into the game, executed early, and stayed with it for 60 minutes.”
Denver has played four games against teams with losing records this season. The Broncos won three of those games by a combined score of 94-22. In the fourth game, a loss at Washington, Denver led at halftime before quarterback Kyle Orton was knocked out with an ankle injury.
McDaniels’ first Broncos team has done a pretty good job of burying bad teams with superior execution. Denver forced three turnovers in a decisive third quarter Sunday, picking off quarterback Matt Cassel twice and returning a fumble for a touchdown. Offensively the Broncos kept it simple, running for 245 yards against a Chiefs defense that ranked 27th in the NFL against the run. Orton did his part, despite three turnovers. He had 180 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, one to Daniel Graham and the other to Brandon Marshall.
“In this league, if you’re not prepared on Sunday, you can lose no matter who you play,” said running back Correll Buckhalter, who rushed for 113 yards. “If we didn’t prepare ourselves through the week and didn’t come out and execute today, we would have lost to the Chiefs.”
Broncos players said they had a lot of energy during the week in practice and were well prepared. Many players and McDaniels also credited the veteran leadership for not allowing any letdown.
“A guy like (safety Brian) Dawkins is never going to let down,” linebacker Darrell Reid said. “The leaders of this team and the coaches, it trickles down.”
The Broncos have a good shot at a playoff berth if they continue to play well against bad teams. Denver has home games remaining against 4-8 Oakland, which it beat 23-3 earlier this season, and a rematch against Kansas City in the regular season finale. The Broncos would have 10 victories if they win those two games.
Those games will probably be easier to win than next week at Indianapolis, which kept its hopes of an undefeated season alive with a win Sunday.
“We’ve almost got to play a perfect game,” said Reid, who played four seasons with the Colts.