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Gazette Premium Content Klee: Broncos expose Chiefs in AFC West showdown

101 photos photo - Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) celebrates after scoring the Broncos second touchdown with a one yard run as the Denver Broncos take on the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, November 17, 2013 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette + caption
Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) celebrates after scoring the Broncos second touchdown with a one yard run as the Denver Broncos take on the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, November 17, 2013 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
By Paul Klee Updated: November 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

DENVER - What a pleasant, comfortable, lovely night at Sports Authority Field.

Nice, too. There were nice people from Kansas City there, especially the guy in Section 315. He high-fived his new Broncos friends after his Chiefs were exposed.

It was all quite nice, like a Sunday stroll through Garden of the Gods with a cup o' Joe.

The Broncos got a nice win, 27-17. It didn't really feel like much more than that.

Perhaps that's because KC is just OK. Denver fielded the better offense (definitely), defense (surprisingly) and uniforms (Kansas City's still remind one of spaghetti).

The Chiefs are nice. They are a nice fairy tale, the kind you tell the kids at bedtime so they won't have nightmares. For the Broncos, there's nothing scary about the Chiefs.

The Broncos are the big, bad wolf.

"It was a gritty performance, a tough performance," Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio said.

In their performance, the Chiefs were nice.

If the Chiefs were a soccer match, they would be a friendly. If they were a Hollywood blockbuster, a Liam Neeson thriller is ideal - worth watching, but nothing R-rated.

This was as clear as the Colorado sky: the AFC West is, was and will be, for as long as Peyton Manning plays football in Denver, the Broncos to lose.

That's a nice feeling. When the Chiefs erupted for nine straight wins, and Manning hobbled off the field last week in San Diego, there was a growing sentiment the Broncos had company in the division-title chase.

The Chiefs are company like Aunt Mary is company. During the holidays she takes up a room but still makes a sweet batch of banana bread.

It's bananas to think the Chiefs are on the level of the Broncos.

On Nov. 17, the Broncos leapt from the No. 5 seed to the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

More important, simply because there are six games still on the schedule, the gap between the Broncos and the Chiefs was shown to be the Royal Gorge.

After seeing the Chiefs in person, Alex Smith is the long-snapper of quarterbacks. You notice him when something goes wrong. Otherwise, Smith is the greatest character actor in NFL history, a guy who might have 1,000 movie credits, but it's really difficult to remember his role, his scenes or anything he said.

Facing a Broncos pass rush more fierce than the Chiefs' celebrated pass rush, Smith completed 21 of 45 pass attempts for 200 yards.

If Alex were going on a blind date, her friends would describe him as nice.

And there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with being a nice quarterback, or a nice person, if his team has other ways to score.

But after seeing the Chiefs' defense in person, it's fair to come away with a simple question: what's all the fuss about?

No one touched Peyton Manning until a Broncos lineman was shoved into him in the third quarter. So that's nice.

Over four quarters, Manning wasn't smacked, smothered or sneezed on by a Chiefs defender. It's a safe day in quarterback land when you can say this: Manning tackled more linebackers (one, Derrick Johnson) than linebackers tackled him (zero).

Note to the Broncos' dry-cleaning service: the No. 18 jersey won't need washing before next Sunday's game in New England.

"It will be a tough challenge playing up there," Manning said. "It always is."

Thanks for playing nice, Kansas City. Or is this how the Chiefs play all the time?

In the first quarter, the Broncos were nice enough to give the Chiefs a turnover, a fumbled handoff between Manning and Montee Ball, just 18 yards from the end zone.

The Chiefs were even nicer. How nice? On the next play, they gave it right back.

The Broncos usually give it back after touchdowns.

The Chiefs give it back after fourth downs. Their punter, Dustin Colquitt, has punted 62 times. His baby brother, Broncos punter Britton Colquitt, has punted 39 times.

On a nice, pleasant, late-autumn night, the fourth-largest crowd in Broncos history, 77,002 strong with only 74 no-shows, saw the most conservative, and smartest, game plan of this season.

Credit interim coach Jack Del Rio and the Broncos coaching staff. Their scheme was a game of high-stakes Keep Away. Keep the Chiefs away from Manning's bum ankle.

Peyton isn't Peyton. Peyton is injured Peyton and playing through it. Only four minutes into the game, Manning floated a pass he normally would fire like a fastball.

Against the Chiefs, who were nice, not nasty, Manning's change-up is more than enough to strike 'em out.

So that's nice to know.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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