DENVER – Even in a bitterly disappointing loss, Trevor Siemian showed signs that the Broncos offense may be close to finding its rhythm.
After a tough first half in which Siemian was sacked multiple times, he ended the game 20-of-34 for 368 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 125.6 passer rating was his second-highest of the season among games he completed.
"He played like a champ," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "We really struggled with them in the first half early in the game, being able to protect anyhow, anyway. We found a way to muster it up, but I think Trevor's play was tremendous.
"He made big plays across the board, made some tremendous throws. I wish he could get out of here with the win tonight but that's part of being a pro. He's got to battle through it, but I'm proud of him. He played really well."
For the second game in a row, the Broncos were competitive in the time-of-possession battle. Against New Orleans, the Broncos held the ball almost twice as long as the Saints. And while that wasn't the case against the Chiefs, both teams were on offense for just over 37 minutes. First downs were similarly close, as the Chiefs gained 23 to the Broncos' 21.
Perhaps most important was that apart from a few early drives in the first quarter when neither team could hang onto the ball, the Broncos maintained drives and moved the football.
"I think we stayed on the field a little bit longer," Siemian said. "Those guys had to play a few more plays, which helped our guys out. We started running the ball pretty well. I think a lot goes into [being successful], but that certainly helped."
Many of Siemian's big plays came courtesy of Emmanuel Sanders, whom he found early and often on Sunday night. Sanders finished with seven receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown in arguably his best game of the season. The targets began in the first quarter when Siemian found Sanders for a tough 14 yards, continued through a 64-yard reception down the sideline and were punctuated by a 35-yard touchdown toss.
"I think he was making a lot of plays," Sanders said. "I'm extremely proud of Trevor. He made a lot of great plays, a lot of great throws. His arrow is definitely pointed up."
Siemian also delivered a deep throw to Bennie Fowler, who scored a 76-yard touchdown that put the Broncos up by eight points with three minutes to go in the contest.
"I think they're an aggressive group, Kansas City, and sometimes you've got to go stretch the field and let your guys make plays," Siemian said. "And I thought those guys stepped up big time and made some big plays for us."
Some of Siemian's best plays were possible because of his ability to stay alive in the pocket. As Kubiak pointed out during media sessions this week, Siemian had scrambled less in recent weeks than he did before he suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. That part of his game was back on Sunday night as he eluded the rush and escaped for first downs and other meaningful gains.
Perhaps the best example of his mobility came late in the second quarter when he scrambled to his left, avoided Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, sprinted all the way back to the right side of the field and fired a strike to Jordan Taylor for a touchdown.
"I think we all felt pretty fresh coming back," Siemian said. "I thought we were a pretty fresh group. This late in the season, that's all you can ask for. I thought everybody felt really good going into it."
With the loss, the Broncos fell to third in the AFC West and will head to Jacksonville next Sunday in dire need of a win. But Siemian said the team has adopted Kubiak's mantra of playing harder than the other team and said the group is ready to get to work Monday morning.
"Obviously this one stinks and got a bad taste in our mouth," Siemian said, "but one of our strengths as a team [is that] we've got a resilient group and it starts with Kub. Guys are already chomping at the bit to get back to work."