ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –Facing the league's top-ranked defense, the Broncos' offense was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.
But quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense put enough points on the board to earn a 27-17 win against Kansas City and push the Broncos into a first-place tie with the Chiefs atop the AFC West standings.
"They've held a lot of teams to field goals," Manning said after the game. "That has been a big reason
why they've been winning games. Teams have driven the ball, and they get down there and get three points (or) a turnover down there. The fact we were able to get three touchdowns down in the red zone and the two field goals by Matt (Prater), that was enough to win."
Manning topped the 300-yard mark for the ninth time in 10 games this year, completing 24-of-40 passes for 323 yards with one touchdown for a 94.1 passer rating.
Manning did not throw an interception in the game, as the Broncos turned it over just once – a fumbled handoff exchange between Manning and running back Montee Ball, a giveaway that Manning took responsibility for.
"We preach ball security all week, not having fumbles or any type of turnovers," Manning said. "So I hated that. It was a third-and-1. I was just trying to hurry to get the ball in Montee's hands. They were kind of blitzing, and I rushed the handoff and didn't give him a good handoff at all."
After Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson picked up the fumbled handoff, only one man stood between him and the end zone – Manning.
The quarterback managed to make the tackle, and one play later, the Broncos defense returned the favor by forcing and recovering a fumble of its own.
On third-and-5 of the ensuing Broncos possession, Manning dialed up a deep pass for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who came down the with ball for a 70-yard gain.
Two plays later, Manning hit tight end Julius Thomas to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead and turn what could have been seven Chiefs points into seven Broncos points.
"Johnson picked it up and I was kind of right there," Manning said of the tackle. "That was an interesting turn of events. Obviously, you're not feeling real good leaving the field and then they turn around and fumble right away and I think we go on and score. Pretty critical series there."
That first-quarter touchdown pass would be the only one of the game for Manning, marking the first time he's been held to just one touchdown in a game this season.
That one touchdown moved his career total to 71 in his two seasons with the Broncos, tying him for third on the team's all-time leaderboard in that category.
Despite the turnover on the earlier handoff to Ball, Manning and the Broncos offense stayed with the rookie running back, who ended up running for a pair of scores in the game.
"Montee did a great job on some runs," Manning said. "Montee getting in the end zone down there, plus the half-yard line, that was a good run and then the one around the 10 or 12, I think we ran it in for the touchdown, that was a big run as well."
Kansas City entered the game leading the NFL in sacks, but the Broncos offensive line was able to keep Manning clean for the game.
"It's possible," Manning said when asked if it was the offensive line's best performance of the year. "I think to go sackless against the leading sack-defense in the NFL, that is a great testament to those guys."
As the offense drained the clock late, Manning handed off plenty to Knowshon Moreno, who carried the ball 27 times, which is the second-most attempts in a game for his career.
Denver ran the ball 36 times and attempted 40 passes, which was a product of the team's goal to stay balanced offensively.
"That's what we talked about," Manning said. "We did not want this game to get out of balance where we were throwing it 45 times or 50 and 20 run attempts. 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."
While the win put Denver tied atop the AFC West with the Chiefs, the two teams will play one another in
just two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Before that, the team will travel to New England for a game against the 7-2 Patriots, who play their Week 11 game on Monday night at Carolina.
"We knew when the schedule came out that these were going to be three critical games," Manning said. "So, this was an excellent win. We'll enjoy it tonight. We'll be in there tomorrow studying this one and getting a head start on New England. Then we play these guys again in another week, which is pretty strange from a schedule standpoint, but it will be tough playing up there next week. It always is."