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Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos 31, Chiefs 24

KANSAS CITY, Mo. --For most of Thursday night, the Broncos' clash with the Chiefs was an EKG or a seismograph gone mad.

And then -- a flat line.


Once Bradley Roby scooped up a Jamaal Charles fumble forced by Brandon Marshall and dashed 21 yards into the end zone, a raucous Arrowhead Stadium was stilled. The "loudest stadium in the world" -- as the Chiefs will remind you via their end-zone scoreboards -- was as silent as a library as the final seconds of the Broncos' stunning 31-24 win drained from the clock.

"I loved it," said linebacker Danny Trevathan. "I love getting Arrowhead quiet, because they're so loud out here."

"I've never heard anything like that," added running back C.J. Anderson. "But it's sweet. It's definitely sweet."

But before the sounds of silence enveloped the Truman Sports Complex, how did the three keys to the game turn out?


With a 14-yard burst to the right side on the game's opening play, it looked as if the Broncos could establish some momentum on the ground. But two runs on the following two plays gained just one yard, and the Broincos found the going tough from there, as Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 61 yards on 22 carries -- including 47 on their final 21 runs.

With the ground game struggling, the play-action was not as effective as the Broncos would have hoped.

"I just have to continue to keep working and keep grinding and try to get back to that form everybody expects me to be into, including myself," said Anderson, who played through a toe injury. "I'll keep working."

But in the meantime, the Broncos shuffled the deck when they fell behind 14-0, emphasizing the shotgun and three-wide receiver looks. The tactical shift worked.

"We're trying to help [Peyton Manning] by running the football better and doing some things," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "But we also know what he's very comfortable doing, so we're trying to somehow find a medium between the two, and we think that will be good for our team. He took control and we got him in that environment. We struggled to run the ball, but continued to make plays."


The Broncos hold on in the second half against the Chiefs in Kansas City.


The Broncos didn't contain Charles in terms of preventing him from making plays; he found enough holes to gain 125 yards and average six yards per carry. But the Broncos neutralized him in the passing game, with effective reads of screen passes holding him to just two yards on four receptions, and the two forced fumbles ensured that his net contribution for the night would be in the negative.

Denver did not have the same success against Travis Kelce, whose 29-yard catch-and-run at David Bruton Jr.'s expense led directly to the Knile Davis touchdown run that put Kansas City in front, 24-17.

Kelce and Charles were the Chiefs' offense at times. They combined for 185 of Kansas City's 314 yards from scrimmage. Charles' 34-yard scoring jaunt in the second quarter was the first touchdown allowed by Denver's defense this season.

The Broncos couldn't contain them, but their aggressive, explosive defense more than made up for it.



The Broncos didn't get the quick start that might have muzzled the crowd, and by the time Marcus Peters dashed 55 yards for a touchdown to put the Chiefs up 14-0, the roar of the crowd could practically be heard from downtown Kansas City.

At that point, the offense went to work. It gathered on the sideline, and went on the attack, running six of 10 plays out of the shotgun, mixing in some no-huddle work and not facing a third down until the final play of the series: a 16-yard pass from Manning to Emmanuel Sanders.

"We just said, 'Focus in, and get our techniques down, and do what we do best,'" Anderson said. "Let's just focus, let's get back to Bronco football, let's get back to what we do best, and I think we got that done tonight."

From there, the offense operated efficiently. After averaging 0.8 points per possession in the season to that point, the Broncos averaged 3.0, with two of their touchdowns coming on 80-yard drives. The Broncos were calm and drove with resolve.

And then, in the final moments, a dead, eerie calm settled over most of Arrowhead Stadium. Well, except for the Broncos sideline, which was so energized by jubilation that the team charter won't need any fuel to fly home.

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