ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –In front of a contingent of his family and friends, rookie running back Montee Ball had the best game of his young career Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
Originally from Wentzville, outside St. Louis, the Missouri native turned 13 carries into 117 yards in the Broncos 35-28 win.
"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 after the game. "I was extremely focused today. I just told myself just to be decisive in the run game."
Ball broke two long runs in the game – the first was a 45-yard run in the third quarter that brought the Broncos out of the shadow of their own end zone. The second was a 28-yard scamper that forced the Chiefs to call their final timeout and allowed the Broncos to kneel on three consecutive games to seal the win.
Ball joked that he wasn't the fastest player around but that the offensive line opened up holes and he just went through them.
"They're one of the hardest-working groups in practice," Ball said of the offensive line. "They carry it forward to the game, and us running backs, we don't want to let them down. As soon as we see a crease, we hit it."
Ball had his first multi-touchdown game two weeks ago in the first matchup with the Chiefs but lost his third fumble of the season last week in New England. He put that behind him in the week leading up to the game.
"Montee was a real pro all week last week," quarterback Peyton Manning said after the game. "He was disappointed with the fumble he had last week. But, he had a good week of practice and came in ready to play today and had a good game today against the Chiefs. 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. 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 as well."
Bailey Back in the Lineup
For just the third time this season, and the first time since Week 7, cornerback Champ Bailey took to the field for the Broncos.
Bailey was only on the field for a short stretch before coming back out but he said after the game that he had just had "the wind knocked out" of him and he soon returned. But the game plan coming in was to work Bailey back in gradually.
"I know we went in saying, 'Hey, we're not going to try to play 80 snaps in the first day back,'" Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said after the game. "So there was a plan to kind of rotate, have him start and rotate him through but not have end up playing too much in this first game back."
The Broncos' defense has been hit by injuries but Bailey's return is good news. The long-term losses of Kevin Vickerson and Rahim Moore — who is designated for return — and Derek Wolfe missing the game due to illness took three starters away from the unit but Bailey said that the defense stepped up against the Chiefs.
"We're banged up but we've got some depth," Bailey said after the game. "And it shows because not to have Wolfe and not to have Vickerson – and then not to have me the full game or Rahim Moore – we've lost a lot of players that have played a lot on this defense.
"It's tough but guys are good players in this locker room and they stepped up."
Woodyard Snags Interception
Late in the game last week in New England, linebacker Wesley Woodyard nearly picked off a pass that could have swung the momentum back in the Broncos' favor.
In the opening minutes of the Kansas City game Sunday, the Chiefs wouldn't be as lucky.
Alex Smith drove the Chiefs down the field but instead of finishing off the drive with a score, Woodyard made his first interception of the season in the end zone.
"I wasn't going to drop this one," Woodyard laughed.
The pick, which he downed for a touchback, was the fifth of Woodyard's career.
"It was just my time," Woodyard said after the game. "I had just gotten back into the game. I was on the sideline and injured my little elbow, whatever. I got out there – it was just my turn to make a play. Somebody had to make a play and it was my turn to make a play."
Though the play slowed down the Chiefs early attack, Kansas City still jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half and Woodyard admitted that the Chiefs had the Broncos defense off-balance.
"We know anytime you play a tough division game – especially versus these guys – they're going to come out swinging," Woodyard said. "They got us off-balance and as a team we just had to settle down."
The Broncos did settle down and forced the Chiefs to punt on five consecutive drives in the second and third quarters. Kansas City scored just one more time after going up 21-7 with nearly 11 minutes to play in the first half.
"It says a lot about our team," Woodyard said of the comeback effort. "To lose like we lost last week on the road, come back this week and definitely get that nasty taste out of our mouth – to be down at halftime – it shows the toughness of our team in continuing to fight."