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Three Keys Unlocked: Chiefs 30, Broncos 27

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DENVER --Losses don't come much tougher than that.

In a game that went as long as a regular-season game can, Cairo Santos caromed a 34-yard field goal off the left upright as 0:00 displayed on the clock in overtime, dooming the Broncos to a 30-27 defeat at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Santos' kick came after the Chiefs were set up at the Denver 48-yard line with 1:03 remaining after the Broncos opted to attempt a 62-yard field goal on fourth-and-10 from the Kansas City 44-yard line. Brandon McManus drove a line-drive kick wide left, and an offsides penalty and two completions set Santos up for the game-winning points.

McManus felt he was good from up to 68 yards, and given his long-range success in practice -- including successful kicks of 70 yards -- it was a decision that the Broncos were quick to defend.

"I've seen 'B-Mac' do that many times in practice," said Head Coach Gary Kubiak. "It's on me. I just gave them a chance. I thought we could do it and we didn't get it done.

"We've got confidence in B-Mac," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We've seen him kick 60-yarders. We know he's got the leg strength to do it. It just didn't go in today."

For most of the cool night, it didn't seem as if the game would come down to a pair of kicks in overtime -- and a series of explosive plays late in regulation that pushed the game to extra tme.

The defenses dominated the first three quarters, and the Broncos held the Chiefs offense to just 12.2 yards and 0.7 points per possession on their first 10 non-kneeldown possessions.

But late in regulation and in overtime, the Broncos allowed the Chiefs to drive to three consecutive scores -- the first to tie game at the end of regulation, and then on a pair of drives for overtime field goals.

Still the game might not have gone to overtime without a series of special-teams miscues that paralyzed the Broncos.

First, a muffed Jordan Norwood punt forced the Broncos to start at their 5-yard line midway through the second quarter; that led to a safety three plays later.

On the ensuing free kick, Kansas City's Tyreek Hill cut back to the right and across the field, setting up an 86-yard touchdown return that extended Kansas City's lead to 9-0.

One quarter later, an illegal-formation penalty on a Santos field goal resuscitated Kansas City's drive; Hill scored on a jet sweep around right end three plays later, allowing the Chiefs to lead 16-10 instead of 12-10.

In the fourth quarter, Norwood muffed a second punt, giving the Chiefs the football at their 41-yard line, preventing the Broncos from what would have been their best drive-starting field position of the night.

That litany of issues followed two holding penalties on Riley Dixon punts in the first quarter, which cost the Broncos 51 yards of field position.

"It just wasn't going right in the beginning," said RB Kapri Bibbs, who was called for a first-quarter holding penalty on a Dixon punt that wiped out a 54-yard blast and a loss of five yards on Hill's return. "A couple of penalties on special teams that called some stuff back.

"I think at the end of the day, we've got some stuff to go back and look at, some stuff we can correct. This game was definitely winnable, and we had it. We just have to finish."

A look back at how the three keys played out.

**

  1. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL**

This was one area in which the Broncos succeeded. Norwood's lost fumble when he failed to field a fourth-quarter punt was the Broncos' only giveaway. The Broncos lost 49 yards of field position and 2:55 of time after forcing a stop, but it didn't prove damaging as the offense promptly sprinted 88 yards in four plays to the 35-yard Trevor Siemian-to-Emmanuel Sanders touchdown that gave the Broncos a 17-16 lead.

2. CONTAIN TRAVIS KELCE

The Broncos knew Kelce could cause problems, and he did precisely that, leading the Chiefs in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (101). None proved decisive, however, until his final catch.

That set up the Chiefs to drive the nail into Denver's coffin. Kelce broke through a tackle attempt and scampered 16 yards to the Denver 16, a gain that proved decisive, as Santos made his attempt by the narrowest of margins, slamming the football off the upright.

3. FINISH THE JOB IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

The Broncos entered the game as the league's best fourth-quarter team, with a plus-76 scoring margin -- 27 points better than the No. 2 Chiefs. After a slow start exacerbated by Norwood's second muffed punt of the night that cost the Broncos a chance to start a possession in Chiefs territory, the offense came alive on the wings of Siemian.

However, the defense couldn't finish the job late. In the same situation it successfully faced twice last season -- up eight points, needing a stop on a two-point conversion to win -- it allowed Smith to hit Demetrius Harris for the two-point conversion that tied the game with 12 seconds remaining.

Three penalties against the defense on that game-tying drive gave the Chiefs 15 yards and a pair of first downs.

"We beat ourselves," Harris said.

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