KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week, it was the Broncos' turn for a comeback victory.
Down 21-7, the Broncos scored 28 consecutive points to pull away at Arrowhead Stadium, moving to 10-2 with a 35-28 win Sunday afternoon.
The victory left the Broncos alone in first place in the AFC West with an important sweep of the team currently in second place.
"This time of the year, that’s what it’s about -- taking control of your division, setting yourself up for the playoffs," wide receiver
The Chiefs didn't quit down 14 -- running back Jamaal Charles' 1-yard touchdown run pulled Kansas City to within a possession midway through the fourth quarter.
But the Broncos offense took three minutes off the clock before punting back to the Chiefs, and though Kansas City drove all the way to the Denver 13-yard line, a pass breakup by safety
"We came in here and knew it was going to be hostile and knew it was going to be a tough environment," Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "We figured they were going to have some type of surge early with emotion and everything playing a factor. I loved the way our guys responded."
Offensively, the game belonged to Decker. The fourth-year wideout led all receivers in catches (eight), yards (174) and touchdowns (four), the second two of which were personal career bests.
He became the first Broncos receiver in franchise history to reel in four touchdowns in the same game.
Sunday also marked the first time that Decker and fellow 2010 Broncos draft pick
“I mean, DT and I always go back and forth," Decker said. "That’s what’s so great about our relationship. He had the three touchdowns in San Diego and I told him I one-upped him, so he’s got to get five now. We push each other in the receiver room and again, whoever it is that day – that particular week – we’re all happy for one another.”
For the game, quarterback Peyton Manning was 22-of-35 for 403 yards, five scores and two interceptions, amounting to a quarterback rating of 118.2.
After the teams traded interceptions on their opening drives, the Chiefs struck first on the scoreboard when quarterback Alex Smith found wide receiver Junior Hemingway for a 17-yard touchdown.
But the first-half scoring was far from finished. In fact, three of the next four possessions ended in touchdowns.
The Broncos answered right away, driving 79 yards down the field in six plays, the sixth of which was a 41-yard strike to Decker for his first score of the afternoon.
The game was tied at 7-7 for just 13 seconds, however, as Kansas City's Knile Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Manning's second interception of the game gave Kansas City the Ball at Denver's 22-yard line, and five plays later Smith found tight end Anthony Fasano for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
"We know anytime you play a tough division game – especially versus these guys – they’re going to come out swinging," said linebacker
When Denver punted on its next drive, the outlook wasn't positive for the Broncos.
But a quick three-and-out forced by the Denver defense followed by a nine-play scoring drive by the offense -- capped by a Manning touchdown pass to
Denver started the second half with the ball, and Manning and the offense promptly drove 80 yards down the field for another score -- Decker's second of the game, a 37-yarder.
"How we run our offense, we’re very versatile as far as going inside, outside, left, right, whatever it may be," Decker said. "Fortunately I had some play calls and took advantage of the opportunities I got.”
Two more Decker touchdowns followed in Denver's stretch of 28 unanswered points -- a 15-yard catch and a 1-yard reception -- as Denver stretched its lead to 14 early in the fourth quarter.
That last drive spanned 95 yards thanks in part to Ball, who got the Broncos out of the shadow of their own end zone with a 45-yard burst.
"That’s part of being a pro – putting last week’s game behind you and learning from it and trying to be better from it," Manning said of the rookie. "It’s not easy to do and I thought his run from our own 5-yard line – it was loud, that place was really rocking – and his run to get us out of that hole was a critical play."
Ball finished the game with a game-high 117 yards on 13 attempts -- an average of nine yards per carry.
“For me, I showed up today telling myself ‘Show up today or shut up. Sit on the bench and shut up if I don’t come today and make plays for my teammates,’" Ball said. "I was extremely focused today. I just told myself just to be decisive in the run game.”
Next week, the Broncos are back at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on the Tennessee Titans. Just four days later, they'll square off with the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football.
"We have two games coming up here in 11 days," Manning said. "That's where our focus is."
In the meantime, the Broncos get back their head coach, John Fox, on Monday.
Del Rio, who served as the interim head coach in Fox's absence, was given the game ball for Sunday's victory from Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway.
“It was special," Del Rio said. "It was about the collective effort of all the players and coaches and trainers and equipment guys, everybody involved that had to pull together in Coach Fox’s absence. So now we get to welcome him back and hand him over a team that took care of business and is sitting on top of the division right now with a month to go.”