KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Broncos got the start they wanted at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. But they couldn't sustain it.
After becoming the first team this season to prevent the Chiefs from scoring on their first possession, the Broncos allowed Kansas City to score on five consecutive series -- including four straight touchdowns. That 30-7 run through the second and third quarters provided all the production Kansas City needed in a 30-23 win that dropped the Broncos to 3-5 at midseason.
Self-inflicted wounds played a key role in the defeat, and those ensure that the loss is particularly painful to swallow.
"It makes it tougher, because we're beating ourselves. We beat ourselves twice against Kansas City, in my opinion. I think we could have beaten them twice," inside linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "The Ravens game, the Jets game, some games, we should have won.
"We just have these mistakes, man, and we've got to fix that."
Why did Denver fall?
Because the Broncos couldn't contain the Chiefs' skill-position standouts
Kansas City's array of targets gives quarterback Patrick Mahomes multiple options any time he takes the snap, and he spread the football around effectively against Denver's defense.
Four different Chiefs amassed 70 or more yards from scrimmage in the game. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins led the way with 107 yards on eight receptions, including a pair of red-zone touchdowns in the second and third quarters. Both of Watkins' touchdowns allowed Kansas City to extend its lead to double digits.
Watkins, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce each had touchdowns; of the Chiefs' big four targets, only Tyreek Hill finished without a score. But he did have the Chiefs' longest gain of the day, a 40-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter that set up Kelce's score two plays later.
Because the Broncos struggled to stop the Chiefs on third down
Kansas City faced just six third downs in the first three quarters, but kept the chains moving four times -- three on third-down conversions and one on Hunt's 23-yard, fourth-and-1 gallop through the Broncos defense and over safety Will Parks to extend their lead to 30-14 late in the third quarter.
After a pair of third-down stops in the first quarter, the Broncos didn't get the Chiefs off the field following a third down until 9:28 remained in the game, when a Mahomes-to-Kelce attempt fell incomplete, forcing Kansas City to punt from the Denver 41-yard line.
Because the Chiefs reclaimed momentum after halftime
The Broncos sprinted 75 yards in four plays to a Case Keenum-to-Tim Patrick touchdown just before halftime, ending a 16-0 Chiefs run. But Denver's defense could not sustain the surge when it came back from the locker room, allowing Kansas City to march 83 yards in nine plays to Watkins' second touchdown catch of the game.
Denver could not respond to the Chiefs' strike, as the offense went three-and-out thanks to a pair of penalties and a third-down sack of Case Keenum by Chris Jones. Colby Wadman's 22-yard punt out of bounds allowed the Chiefs to start their next possession at the Denver 32; they scored four plays later.
Because of penalties
Officials flagged the Broncos 10 times for 83 yards, and some of the infractions proved particularly damaging.
A pass-interference call against Bradley Roby in the first quarter turned a potential third-and-19 scenario into first-and-10, reviving the Chiefs. The Chiefs capitalized, driving into a goal-to-go situation thanks to a 6-yard Kareem Hunt run and a 22-yard Mahomes-to-Hill connection before settling for a Harrison Butker field goal.
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay also had gains of 21 and 23 yards negated by holding penalties.
"That's one thing that we have to stop -- the penalties, the technique, a.k.a. mental errors, man," Marshall said.
Photos of game action from Broncos photographers during the team's Week 8 game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Because Tanoh Kpassagnon blew up a third-and-short
Early in the second quarter, Denver's offense was doing what it wanted to do -- sustain drives and chew up the clock. The Broncos followed their eight-play, 81-yard march to Lindsay's touchdown run with a drive that had gained 50 net yards and taken up four minutes and 47 seconds of time before facing a third-and-2 at the Kansas City 31.
The Broncos then tried to run a jet sweep to Emmanuel Sanders. But Kansas City linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon read it perfectly, engulfing Sanders for a 6-yard loss. Denver was forced to settle for a 55-yard Brandon McManus field-goal attempt that went wide right, ending the scoring threat.
McManus' miss allowed the Chiefs to start their ensuing possession at their 55-yard line, and they capitalized, needing just four plays to score on a 9-yard Mahomes-to-Kelce touchdown pass. The score put the Chiefs in front to stay and started a run of four consecutive touchdown drives.
Because giveaways thwarted the chance of a comeback
Turnovers ended consecutive Broncos possessions in the fourth quarter after they had narrowed the Chiefs' lead to 10 points. On the first, Dee Ford got past left tackle Garett Bolles and stripped the ball from Keenum's grasp. Breeland Speaks recovered the football at the Kanas City 45-yard line, ending the Broncos scoring threat.
The defense stiffened and force the Chiefs off the field after a first down, giving the offense another chance to whittle the deficit. That ended when Kansas City's Kendall Fuller intercepted Keenum's attempt to Demaryius Thomas after a flea-flicker.
In the end, the Broncos had their third one-core loss to a team that is 7-1 or better in five weeks.
"You can say we're close, but we're not gaining ground," outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. "It's the same thing every week.
"We've just got to keep trying and work on getting better, because we're close every week, but we're not getting closer. We've just go two work on our fundamentals and get back to clean football."