KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — All those doubters who kept saying that Peyton Manning was washed up, that his arm strength was depleted and his drive for championships diminished?
He silenced them along with everyone else in Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday night.
Manning calmly led the Broncos to a tying touchdown in the final minute, then watched from the sideline as Denver cornerback Bradley Roby returned Jamaal Charles’ fumble 21 yards for another score with 27 seconds left to cap a stunning 31-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“The talk doesn’t really get to me,” said Manning, who threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns along with a pick-six. “I don’t read a lot of papers and watch a lot of analysis. But obviously, you get friends and teammates and it seems to make them quite angry.
“Obviously, it’s nice when guys on your team, and your friends and family have your back. But it doesn’t affect me,” he added. “We’re 2-0 and played two really good teams.”
Much as he did last week against Baltimore, Manning struggled early against Kansas City (1-1), throwing a costly interception to rookie Marcus Peters as the Broncos dug themselves a 14-0 hole.
But when the game was in the balance, Manning looked like the vintage All-Pro.
After Knile Davis had given the Chiefs the lead with 2:27 left, Manning stoically led the Broncos down field. He completed three long passes to Demaryius Thomas, then hit Emmanuel Sanders on third-and-10 from the Chiefs 19 with 36 seconds remaining to knot the game 24-all.
And when Charles was stripped by Brandon Marshall on the next play from scrimmage, and Roby picked up the loose ball and ran it back, it was Manning who led the celebration.
So much for his championship drive withering away.
“Obviously, he’s not done,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You could see that in the Ravens game. When he wasn’t being hit, he’s the same old Peyton. He’s what you saw here. Very similar.”
What was un usual was seeing Charles cough the ball up twice.
The dynamic Chiefs running back is typically sure-handed, so when he fumbled early in the game to squander a good scoring chance, everyone on the Kansas City sideline simply brushed it off.
Then came the second fumble, one that essentially cost the Chiefs the game.
“I was just trying to make a play and wasn’t careful with the ball,” said Charles, who ran for 125 yards and a touchdown. “I should have been smarter and put two hands on the ball. I caused us this loss today. I tried to put the team on my back and I ended up losing the game.”
Not entirely, of course. Alex Smith threw two interceptions and the Chiefs had five turnovers in all, and nine penalties kept scuttling what appeared to be promising drives.
Oh, and Manning had something to do with the outcome, too.
Here are some of the takeaways from the Broncos’ seventh straight win over the Chiefs:
TAKING OWNERSHIP: Reid said he was hoping Charles might pop a long run, which is why he didn’t take a knee and head to overtime. “I’ll take responsibility,” Reid said.
DT AND E: Thomas finished eight catches for 116 yards, while Sanders had eight catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns. “It was definitely one of the best games I’ve been part of,” Sanders said.
UGLY EXECUTION: The turnovers and penalties were costly for the Chiefs, but so were third downs. They had seven of them and never converted one. “We pulled this game out, coming off a short week,” DeMarcus Ware said. “It was a great win for us.”
PETERS MAKES A PLAY: Marcus Peters had a memorable first touchdown, intercepting Manning and returning it 55 yards for a score. The first-round pick also had an interception last week against Houston. “It feels good,” he said, “but it stings too bad. We’re going away with a tough loss.”
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston had two more sacks, pushing his season total to three. He had a franchise-record 22 last season. “It’s all about winning and we didn’t win,” he said, “so I guess I needed more sacks.”