DENVER -- **In facing a Chiefs defense that entered Sunday night's showdown leading the NFL in sacks and points allowed, the Broncos offense strove for balance in attacking Kansas City's league-leading unit.
When the dust finally settled at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver had churned up 427 yards of total offense and, most importantly, had posted 27 points on a Kansas City defense that previously had allowed no more than 17 points in a game this season.
And while quarterback Peyton Manning posted his ninth game this season of throwing for more than 300 yards – the quarterback finished with 323 passing yards – the Broncos also ran the ball for 104 yards against the Chiefs. Of Denver's 76 offensive plays, 40 were passes and 36 were runs – indicative of a balanced approach that Manning identified after the game as being critical to keeping the Chiefs' dangerous pass rush from finding a rhythm.
"We did not want this game to get out of balance where we were throwing it 45 times or 50 and 20 run attempts," Manning said. "I can't speak for the Chiefs' defense, but we felt balanced in trying to keep them from emphasizing just on one thing being able to tee off in the pass rush. I thought that was good play calling by (Offensive Coordinator) Adam (Gase) and good execution in the run game and protection."
Crucial to that execution were the rugged efforts of running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball, who bore the brunt of the load on the ground for the Broncos.
Moreno carried the ball 27 times for 79 yards, leading all rushers in the game. That marked the second-most carries in a game for Moreno's career.
Meanwhile, Ball came through with two of the biggest carries of the evening – scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter that gave the Broncos a 17-7 lead, and adding an 8-yard touchdown scamper around the right end with 2:22 to play in the third quarter that put the Broncos up 24-10.
Ball – who finished with 25 yards on eight carries – became the first Broncos rookie to have a multi-touchdown game since Moreno did it in 2009.
"It feels great, I didn't know that," Ball said regarding becoming the first rookie since Moreno to accomplish the feat. "First off, I have to give a lot of props to the offensive line because they did a great job getting Peyton on his feet and also making holes for us running backs. We just made great reads and executed."
After concluding his collegiate career at Wisconsin as the all-time NCAA FBS leader in touchdowns with 82, Ball went the first seven games of his rookie NFL campaign without finding the end zone. He's now scored three touchdowns in his last three games – and Ball noted that he was happy that his coaching staff stuck with him after a missed exchange with Manning resulted in a fumble earlier in the game.
"Like I said, it's better late than never, I finally showed up," Ball said. "I'm glad that the coaches had faith to put me back in there after the exchange problems that we had. But like I said, I'm glad that I just executed and did the right things for my team."
That was something that Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was also quite pleased with.
"Loved it. Loved it," Del Rio said regarding Ball's touchdowns. "He has a nose for the end zone, and that's one of the reasons he was drafted and brought here. He was a productive ball carrier in college, and it was great to see him get a couple of scores tonight."
Ultimately, Del Rio noted that the Broncos' steady productivity on the ground helped enable a balanced attack that was key to unlocking the Chiefs defense on Sunday night.
"I'd say by the way it played out, yes," Del Rio said in response to whether there was a concerted effort to establish the running game. "Remember, I'm letting (Offensive Coordinator) Adam (Gase) do his thing over there. I did notice the number of carries."
"If you're running it that many times, typically it's a good night for you," he added.