KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs had 66 yards of offense through three quarters Sunday night. Their defense was gashed for 168 yards by unheralded running back C.J. Anderson. And when they finally made Denver punt, a gaffe by one of their players gave the Broncos the ball back.
So when Kansas City coach Andy Reid said, “There’s really not a phase I can point to that was a positive in this game,” he wasn’t speaking merely in hyperbole.
“We have to do a better job putting players in the right position and we have to do a better job executing when we’re in that position,” Reid said after a 29-16 loss to the Broncos. “We get that fixed we’ll be back on track, but we’ve stalled the last two weeks.”
After losing to previously winless Oakland a week ago, the Chiefs are now headed to Arizona desperate for a victory to get their playoff hopes back on track.
They’ll have to perform better than they did against the Broncos.
Alex Smith had 153 yards passing and two touchdowns for the Chiefs (7-5), the second of them to Jamaal Charles to make it 26-16 early in the fourth quarter. But Smith’s pass on the 2-point try fell incomplete, and the Broncos added another field goal to put the game away.
Smith was sacked six times and Denver held Kansas City to 151 yards of total offense.
“It really feels like the last two weeks (have been) uncharacteristic of who we are as a team,” Smith said. “It’ll be a little bit of that, a gut-check time. There’s still a lot of very meaningful football left for us. It’s a matter of what we do with it.”
Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes, one of them to Anderson, as the Broncos (9-3) remained a game up on San Diego in the AFC West. Connor Barth added five field goals, matching the franchise record for a single game set twice before by Jason Elam.
“It’s crazy,” said Barth, who was signed this week to replace Brandon McManus. “My agent and I always talk about just one kick at a time and so that’s what I try to do every time.”
It certainly wasn’t the kind of performance expected of the Chiefs, who emerged in a frenzy before the game wearing all-red uniforms for the third time in franchise history.
The Chiefs were honoring veteran safety Eric Berry, who will miss the rest of the season after a mass suspected to be lymphoma was found in his chest. Berry has professed his love for the red-on-red look, which the Chiefs wore last year against Dallas and this year versus New England.
While the Chiefs won both of those games, they hardly gave themselves a chance Sunday.
Manning capped an effortless 74-yard drive with a 23-yard third-down pass to Thomas in the first quarter. Then, after the Broncos forced a second consecutive three-and-out, Manning found Anderson out of the backfield on third down for a 15-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0.
Anderson, who went undrafted last year, was coming off a 167-yard rushing performance last week against Miami. Starting in place of the injured Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, he proved that it was no one-week fluke, gashing the Kansas City defense with nearly every touch.
Even when the Chiefs stopped the Broncos, they were usually within range for Barth.
“He said he was laying out by the pool this time last week,” Manning said. “He came in here in zero-degree weather and went 5 for 5 in field goals. That was huge.”
Meanwhile, very little was going right for the Chiefs on offense.
After recovering a fumble deep in Denver territory early in the second half, they managed three yards before kicking a field goal. On their next possession, Smith had a pass batted at the line and intercepted by DeMarcus Ware, the first pick he’d thrown in 179 attempts. And on the Chiefs’ next possession, Smith was sacked by Ware on third-and-1 to force another punt.
Then, when the Chiefs finally held Denver on third down, backup cornerback Marcus Cooper inexplicably let the punt to bounce off his leg. The Broncos recovered for a fresh set of downs.
Barth added his fifth field midway through the fourth quarter to seal the win
“There was no positive out there,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “You can’t say the offense, defense or special teams really had a solid day.”