The Denver Broncos reeled off big run after big run against the soft underbelly of the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman ran roughshod over the Chiefs. Each scored a touchdown and Freeman eluded seven defenders and dragged a linebacker into the end zone on his 14-yard score.
“We ran the ball well,” Broncos quarterback Case Keenum said. “We started off so many series just pounding the rock at second-and-1, first-and-10. Even with some loaded boxes that K.C. brought, our offensive line played really well.
“We’ve got to keep running the ball well. If we keep running the ball like we do, we’re going to win a lot of games.”
Nobody could stop Lindsay and Freeman Monday night — except Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who abandoned his great ground game at key moments in the Broncos’ 27-23 loss .
That included a three-and-out series in which the Broncos lined up in three-receiver sets three times in between the Chiefs’ final two drives, both of which ended in touchdowns as Patrick Mahomes rallied the Chiefs (4-0) back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Lindsay ran for 69 yards on a dozen carries for a 5.8-yard average and Freeman ran for 67 yards on just eight hand-offs, a whopping 8.4-yard average.
Lindsay’s long run was 19 yards and both Freeman and speedy wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders reeled off 18-yard runs.
“They ran downhill, but you score points by throwing the football,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “We ran the ball to control the game, but you throw the ball to score.”
Clinging to a 23-20 lead, the Broncos didn’t burn enough clock to keep Mahomes on the sideline and give Denver’s exhausted defense enough of a breather.
After a run for no gain, a catch for no gain and a sack, Marquette King shanked a 35-yard punt that gave the Chiefs the ball at midfield for their game-winning drive.
The Chiefs ran well themselves, with Kareem Hunt leading the way with 121 yards on 19 carries.
“It was a big game,” Hunt said. “We’ve been up big on everyone we’ve played so far. It’s good to see where we’re at mentally and be able to fight back and come back in the fourth quarter down 10 points. That shows a team that’s not going to give up.”
Other takeaways from the Chiefs’ sixth straight victory over the Broncos:
Patrick Mahomes threw for 304 yards and a touchdown, a 2-yarder to tight end Travis Kelce that sparked the fourth-quarter comeback. That gave him 14 TDs and zero interceptions through the first month of the season.
But the play everyone was talking was his 6-yard strike to Tyreek Hill with his left hand while getting pulled down by Von Miller .
“I didn’t think about it at all,” Mahomes said. “I was just kind of scrambling left, I felt Von on my back and I knew I couldn’t throw it with my right hand. I knew we needed the first down, so I kind of shot-putted it to Tyreek. … You just have to get the ball in their hand somehow.”
“It caught me off-guard,” Hill said. “I’ve never seen a quarterback who is right-handed throw the ball left-handed.”
Said Hunt: “I thought, is this dude a magician or something? He is doing things that you don’t see often.”
Or ever, suggested Chiefs safety Eric Murray.
“That one is new,” Murray said. “I’m glad we all got to see it.”
Miller didn’t see it.
He was wrapped around Mahomes’ ankles trying to bring down the second-year star.
“I didn’t know he threw it with his left hand,” Miller conceded.
Neither did linebacker Shane Ray.
“I didn’t see the hand switch,” Ray said. “I heard about it.”
Along with everyone else.
Through one month, Case Keenum isn’t the same quarterback who led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC championship in January after injuries to Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater.
So far, Keenum has just three touchdown passes to go with six interceptions with the Broncos after throwing for 22 TDs and just seven interceptions.
“We believe in Case and he’s shown he can win games late for us,” Joseph said.
Keenum nearly pulled off his third fourth-quarter comeback for the Broncos but he overthrew a wide-open Demaryius Thomas streaking down the Chiefs sideline with 16 seconds left from the K.C. 28.
“It was close,” Keenum said. “I want to watch it on film. But it felt really close. There’s a few, especially those types of plays that I lose a little sleep over, thinking about it, laying at night in bed. It’s a tough one, it stings.”
The Broncos brought in a practice squad punter to push King last week but he continued his disappointing first season in Denver by averaging just 41 yards on three punts with a paltry net of 28.7.
His 35-yard duck gave the Chiefs the ball at their 40 with 4 1/2 minutes left.
“He’s got to perform better,” Joseph said. “We’re at home and it’s his job to flip the field. It ain’t happening.”
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