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Change of Pace

Posted Dec 5, 2010

The recent history of the rivalry between the Broncos and the Chiefs has produced high scoring games. Denver's 10-6 loss to Kansas City told a different story.

Kansas City, Mo. -- It was not a barn burner. In fact, barely a smolder of scoring offense could be found on the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The Broncos and the Chiefs combined for 16 points in their second meeting of the season, and Kansas City won the contest, 10-6. Denver fell to 3-9 and is now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

"Going into these games in December you've got to figure it's going to be low scoring, a field-position type game," Kyle Orton said. "(You) try to limit the turnovers and have a chance at the end. We had a chance and didn't make any plays in the fourth quarter."

Denver's defense shut out the Chiefs in the second half, and Knowshon Moreno set a new personal best for rushing yards in a game, but the Broncos offense sputtered when it mattered most.

They converted only three third downs all day and did not score a touchdown despite driving to the Chiefs' 8-yard line.

Orton and Brandon Lloyd entered the contest as the league leaders in passing and receiving yards, respectively, but the Chiefs forced season lows out of both Broncos.

Denver's quarterback threw for 117 yards, completed only 32 percent of his passes and went without a touchdown pass for the first time this season. Lloyd hauled in two catches for 31 yards, but Orton targeted him 11 times.

"I think we just didn't have a great day when we had our opportunities," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "We didn't make those plays. We've had a lot of chances and we've come up with those, whether it be Kyle and Brandon or somebody else. But when they singled us today, we took our shots and just didn't convert them."

In a game featuring two stagnant offenses, the Chiefs were able to ride one strong drive to the finish line. Champ Bailey held Dwayne Bowe without a catch, so the Chiefs found contributions from other pass-catchers.

Kansas City's mammoth, 6-foot-8 tight end, Leonard Pope, caught a 2-yard pass from Matt Cassel in the first quarter for the only touchdown of the game. Kansas City converted three straight third downs on that drive, and the Chiefs found success on 71 percent of their third down attempts in the first half.

Charles almost added to the lead with a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the play was called back due to an illegal-formation penalty. Kansas City elected to go for it on fourth down, and Mario Haggan sacked Cassel to force a turnover on downs.

But the Broncos could not capitalize. Orton threw two incompletions in the following three plays, and Denver had to punt.

After Orton threw a career-high four touchdown passes against the Chiefs in Denver a month ago, Kansas City focused its defensive scheme on grounding the Broncos' pass attack in Arrowhead.

"Their plan was to stop the passing game, there's no doubt about it," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said.

The plan worked, but Moreno ran wild when Kansas City's safeties keyed in on Denver's receivers. He racked up 161 yards on 23 carries, averaging 7 yards every time he carried the ball.

On Denver's first scoring drive, Moreno rushed seven times for 58 yards and helped move the ball down to the 8-yard line, where Matt Prater hit a 21-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.

Cassel responded by completing three passes to set up a field goal on the ensuing drive. Ryan Succop hit a 47-yard field goal that kept Kansas City's lead at seven points before halftime.

"We were able to run the ball, we just weren't able to punch it in for scores," Lloyd said. "We were effective running the ball, and it just wasn't enough."

On his longest carry of the day, Moreno knifed up the middle of the defense for 24 yards on a third-down draw play. Matt Prater had kicked a 41-yard field goal -- his second of the day -- on the team's previous possession, and Denver's defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to its offense.

With Kansas City clearly thinking a pass was coming, Moreno exploited a gap in the middle of the field and sprinted to Kansas City's 24-yard line. But the team's momentum ended there.

Orton was called for a delay of game penalty and then turned the ball over on a second-and-long when Tamba Hali sacked him, forced a fumble and recovered it.

"I think they had a good plan against us today in the passing game," Orton said. "They devoted a lot of guys to coverage and got a little bit of pressure."

The Broncos had another possession to attempt a comeback with just under four minutes left in the game.

Orton hit Lloyd on an 18-yard pass to start the drive, but followed that up with an incomplete pass and a sack. Javier Arenas put the heat on Orton, and the quarterback managed to flip the ball to Moreno, but only after the officials had already blown the whistle to signify a sack.

Thanks to the that call, Arenas tallied his second sack of the day, pairing with Hali to take Orton down four times in the game.

"I thought we had it," Orton said. "I know I didn't touch the ground. I just didn't know if (Moreno) had caught it because I kind of threw it over my shoulder. I get up and they're blowing the whistle dead."

Orton completed a 14-yard pass to Moreno on third down that placed the offense 4 yards short of a first down, and the team elected to punt with 2:32 left in the contest. The Broncos still had two timeouts and the two-minute warning, but Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles combined for 10 yards on the first two plays, running out just enough clock to force Denver to burn its timeouts before punting.

Orton had eight seconds left for one last play, and his Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete.

"You feel like you might have a shot to get it back somewhere around the two-minute warning, instead of when we did," McDaniels said.

In the previous three games between the AFC West rivals, the winning team has scored at least 44 points. In Week 10, the Broncos hung 49 points on the Chiefs. On Sunday, Kansas City earned a victory with a touchdown and a field goal.

"(They) made some adjustments certainly from our first game," McDaniels said. "We did too. I think that's why the game kind of totally took a different spin. They played hard. They made a few more plays then we did."