DENVER — The Broncos' winless streak against the Chiefs will last at least a few more weeks.
Led by a dominant defensive performance, Kansas City came to Denver for "Thursday Night Football" and left with a 30-6 win that dropped the Broncos to 2-5 on the season.
"We want to win," outside linebacker Von Miller said. "We've got a high standard here in Broncos Country, and we haven't been able to do it. It's frustrating."
Denver jumped out to a 6-0 lead on their first possession of the game, but the Broncos would not score again.
"Everything we did was tough, and they made it that way," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "And we didn’t do anything to kind of wear them down and get them out of that. They made things really tough for us, and we just never got it going after that first drive."
The Chiefs, meanwhile, added 30 unanswered points of their own, punctuated by a 57-yard Tyreek Hill receiving touchdown.
A potential shootout between the two teams never materialized. Kansas City's defense held the Broncos to just 130 net yards after the team's initial scoring drive and sacked Flacco a career-high eight times. On one of the Chiefs' second-quarter sacks, they knocked the ball away from Flacco and Reggie Ragland returned it 5 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 20-6.
“It’s disappointing to not be ultimately competitive out there,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said. “We were competitive for a while. It was 13-6 there for a while. In lieu of the field position they had, it was good. You’re not going to win many games [1-of-13] … on third down and they scored a defensive touchdown. That’s an uphill battle.”
The Chiefs' defense, which ranked 30th in rushing defense ahead of Thursday night's game, allowed the Broncos to gain just 49 rushing yards through three quarters and 71 total rushing yards.
After the Broncos' initial scoring drive, they punted seven times, turned the ball over on downs, were stopped on a fake punt, lost a fumble and missed a field goal.
Denver didn't do itself any favors on offense. Garett Bolles was whistled for three holding penalties, Noah Fant failed to haul in any of his first four targets and Joe Flacco completed just 10 passes between the team's initial drive and the end of the third quarter. Flacco finished 21-of-34 for 213 yards.
"All levels of our passing game were the problems," Fangio said. "Protections sometimes; receivers not getting open sometimes; them using good coverages for us that maybe we weren’t ready for. It’s certainly a problem that we have to get rectified moving forward."
The Broncos were just 1-of-13 on third down, 1-of-3 on fourth down and averaged 3.2 yards per play. The Broncos are now 3-of-27 on third down dating back to the start of their game against the Titans.
Flacco said the Chiefs didn't do anything the Broncos didn't expect. They played man coverage, doubled key receivers and sent all-out blitzes on several occasions.
"They came after us, man," Flacco said. "And that was the story of the night."
A trio of first-half special teams mistakes — allowing a 36-yard punt return, failing to gain the first down on a fake punt and missing a 45-yard field goal — also haunted the Broncos and accounted for a nine-point swing in Kansas City's favor.
“The fake punt was botched,” Fangio said. “We had a receiver that was trying to get out in the flat. He didn’t get out, and that left our punter in a bind.”
Even without Patrick Mahomes, who exited the game in the second quarter with a knee injury with the Chiefs up 10-6, Kansas City did more than enough to hold on in the second half.
"I still felt like we had a shot," Miller said. "We were only down two touchdowns for the longest [time]. We had to do something on defense. We had to come up with an interception or some type of takeaway, especially when Mahomes went out. We've got to find a way to get the ball back, and we just weren't able to do it. We weren't able to do it in all three phases today."
The Broncos' defense, which held the Chiefs to field goals on short fields after allowing an opening-drive touchdown, kept Kansas City out of the end zone on five consecutive possessions. Backup quarterback Matt Moore found an open Hill in the third quarter to ice the game and end that streak.
Denver's losing streak against Kansas City, which now stands at eight games, would not come to end.
Flacco, though, knows these sorts of games happen in the NFL. During his 12-year NFL career, he's seen at least a few of them.
“I think the best teams I’ve played on have gotten blown out at some point in the year," Flacco said. "Listen, man, there’s a lot of good players in this league and a lot of good teams. You will be humbled at some point. A lot of guys, they play on really good high school teams, really good college teams and you’re better than everybody. You get in the NFL, and it’s an even playing field and you’ve got to show up ready to play. Definitely a good learning experience for guys to kind of get knocked on their butt a little bit and see what that feels like and a good opportunity for veterans on the team to let them know that this stuff happens. It’s all about how you react to it and how you come back after [it].”
Fangio, who will try to lead his team forward, said he still believes the team can find success in the latter half of the season.
“I still believe in these guys,” Fangio said. “We had a poor performance tonight, really at all three levels. we had a poor first drive defensively. We had a long stretch where we played decent after that. The kicking game let us down. We missed a kick, we don’t get a fake punt off. And, obviously, our problems on offensive. But I still believe in these guys, the players we have — who they are and what they’re about. And I think we’ll take this extra time to refocus and get going here on the second half of the season.”