KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the first time in their now six-game win streak, the Broncos failed to score 30 points on Sunday. In fact, for the first time all season, Denver failed to reach the 20-point barrier.
But the club still found a way to win, leaving Arrowhead Stadium with a 17-9 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"They're not all going to be pretty," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Sometimes you're going to have those games. It's just nice to come out of here with a win, because this is a tough place to play."
The defense kept Kansas City out of the end zone all afternoon, holding the Chiefs -- led on offense by former Broncos quarterback Brady Quinn -- to three field goals.
Though running back Jamaal Charles found some space for a 107-yard afternoon on the ground, Quinn was limited to just 126 passing yards. Kansas City's leading receiver, Dwayne Bowe, had 41 receiving yards, which would have ranked fifth on the Broncos for the game.
"Hats off to our defense," Head Coach John Fox said. "They had three (scoring) trips and again, it's something we work really hard on – the red area. Holding them to three field goals was key in the game."
The Denver offense struggled to find a rhythm against a Chiefs defense that entered the game ranked No. 6 in the league against the pass. The Broncos turned the ball over via an interception, missed two field goals and went three-and-out on three separate occasions.
Midway through the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium, the Broncos had managed just 57 yards of offense and trailed 6-0.
"We knew coming in that it wasn't going to be easy," Decker said. "It was a gut check. We struggled early but made plays when we needed to."
The first of those plays came after linebacker Wesley Woodyard sacked Quinn to knock the Chiefs out of field-goal range. The offense then capped an 11-play, 94-yard with a 7-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Peyton Manning to tight end Jacob Tamme just before halftime that looked to put the Broncos back on track.
"That's like a 10-point swing," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "That's big. We get the ball back and those guys go on in and score – that's huge. That makes a big difference from us having to try to get the ball back towards the end of the game and trying to score versus us having the lead and not giving up points."
The Chiefs retook the lead in the third quarter via a 49-yard Ryan Succop field goal. However, the lead lasted all of three minutes of game time.
On the strength of a handful of big plays, including runs of 15 and 7 yards by Knowshon Moreno -- who led the team with 85 rushing yards -- a 10-yard run by Ronnie Hillman and a 12-yard reception on third down by tight end Jacob Tamme, Denver faced a first-and-10 at the Kansas City 30-yard line on its ensuing drive.
Manning lofted a pass down the left sideline into the waiting arms of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was in full stride, for the go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown and a 14-9 lead.
The defense held Kansas City scoreless the rest of the way, and a fourth-quarter Broncos drive that took more than six minutes off the clock and ended with a 34-yard Matt Prater field goal essentially sealed the Denver win.
"We certainly would have liked to not go three-and-out on the two series before that, but Kansas City did a good job," Manning said. "That's something we can build on."
Safety David Bruton intercepted Quinn's final Hail Mary attempt as time expired to send the Broncos to 8-3.
After the game, players in all three phases of the game touched on the need to improve going forward. Cornerback Champ Bailey said it's always easier to accept that fact after a win.
"That's the thing, we came out of here with a 'W,'" Bailey said. "That's what we came in here for. We obviously have some things we have to correct and iron out, but that's what practice is for."
Next week, the Broncos return home to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Seven in a row -- that's what we're shooting for," Woodyard said. "We're just taking it one week at a time, trying to get better."