DENVER —The Chiefs entered Sunday's game in Denver with the second-best third-down conversion rate in the league.
The Broncos held them to 0-of-8.
The Chiefs entered Sunday's game in Denver averaging more than three offensive touchdowns per game.
The Broncos held them to two, including just one through the first 57 minutes.
The Chiefs entered Sunday's game in Denver averaging more than 400 yards per game, which ranked third in the league.
The Broncos held them to 286 yards.
And yet, it wasn't even close to enough.
As the Broncos fell to the Chiefs for the 10th consecutive time, they turned in perhaps their best defensive effort against Patrick Mahomes since he became Kansas City's full-time starter. And still, the Broncos fell 43-16 to their division rival.
"We've got to take a gut-check and figure out how we can stop those wounds that keep bleeding," tackle Garett Bolles said.
Early on, at least, it appeared the Broncos would vanquish the struggles that plagued them in past matchups. After going three-and-out on their initial two drives and allowing the Chiefs to drive 68 yards in eight plays for a go-ahead touchdown, the Broncos forced a fumble and used a 27-yard completion from Drew Lock to Tim Patrick to move into the red zone. On a third-down zone-read play, Lock kept the ball himself and raced off right tackle for a touchdown.
Denver then held Kansas City to a field goal via a third-down sack from Bradley Chubb, and they regained possession with a chance to take their first lead against the Chiefs since the first quarter of 2019's Week 7 matchup.
The Broncos, though, turned the ball over on their next two possessions. A fumble by Melvin Gordon III at midfield didn't cost the Broncos points, but Lock was pick-sixed by Daniel Sorensen on the next possession. Denver rebounded with a field-goal drive on its following possession, but Byron Pringle then returned a kickoff 102 yards for a score to extend the lead to 24-9. The Broncos wouldn't seriously challenge the Chiefs again.
"It was disappointing obviously," Head Coach Vic Fangio said. "We just didn't play well as a team to obviously give us a chance to win the game there. The four turnovers, the kickoff return for a touchdown, you're not going to beat a team like Kansas City doing that. A couple of the turnovers gave them good field position but our whole team just got beat today by them. They're really good and we weren't up to the challenge today."
The game truly appeared to get out of hand in the third quarter, when Denver forced an opening three-and-out and took over with a chance to cut the lead to one possession. After picking up two quick first downs, the Broncos ran a flea-flicker play — and it ended in disaster. Gordon's pitch back to Lock went over his head, and Frank Clark returned the mishap to Denver's 14-yard line.
"Obviously, turning the ball over is never good," Fangio said. "I'm not sure exactly what happened on the flea-flicker as far as where the breakdown was there, whether it was a bad pitch back or not. We can't turn the ball over obviously."
Denver's next two drives ended in a turnover on downs and an interception. Lock has now thrown two interceptions in each of the last two games.
He admitted after the game that he may be pressing out of a desire to win.
"Yeah, that could be a little bit," Lock said. "Since I've been here, when I was on the sideline you saw a lot of people angry and mad — unhappy with the way we started the beginning of that season. And then you see how happy and excited and looking forward to it everyone was at the end of last season when we started winning. Coming into this year, you just want it so bad for the guys around you. Obviously, I want it for myself, but it ends up being more for the guys around you than it is for yourself. That's probably the worst part."
Lock vowed after the loss that he would "play a whole lot better" and said the conversations about his decision-making would soon be in the past.
"There's a fine line between taking what the defense gives you and then when they don't give you what you want, trying to make a play," Lock said. "I can make the plays when they're there, but I've just got to get a little better judgment on when it's time to make that play or say, 'You know what, they got us.' Eventually we'll stop having this conversation, but it needs to happen faster than later, and it will."
The Broncos hope to put this game in the rearview, as well. Denver's next two opponents are a combined 3-10, as the Chargers visit Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday before the Broncos head to Atlanta.
"We've got to absorb the hurt and the disappointment," Fangio said. "By Wednesday when we come back in and start our preparation for the next game, it's got to be flushed out and we've got to get rolling."
Safety Justin Simmons — who pointed to several ways in which the defense could've been better on Sunday — knows that's the only way to help the Broncos push from 2-4 back toward .500.
"One loss doesn't define you as much as one win doesn't define you," Simmons said. "We've got to fix the mistakes and move on to next week."