The Broncos are rolling into their Week 9 bye in style.
Denver finished the first half of its season with a two-game win streak and secured its first win over Kansas City since 2015. After edging by the Bears by three points and the Packers by a two-point margin in their previous two wins, the Broncos never trailed against the Chiefs and used five takeaways and three passing touchdowns to capture a memorable 24-9 victory. The Broncos' defense kept Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense out of the end zone, while Denver's offense made crucial big plays to put the game out of reach by the end of the fourth quarter. Here's a closer look at seven crucial plays the Broncos made that shaped their monumental win:
WR Marvin Mims Jr. sets up Denver's offense in Kansas City territory with 31-yard punt return
Situation: Defending fourth-and-14 from the Kansas City 21, 13:30 remaining in the first quarter, game tied at 0
Breakdown: After the Broncos' defense showed it was ready to play by forcing a three-and-out on the Chiefs' opening drive, electric rookie Marvin Mims Jr. ensured that Denver's offense would have a prime opportunity to get on the scoreboard right away. Mims fielded Kansas City's punt along the right sideline, then bolted to the opposite side of the field as his blocks set up. The rookie wide receiver flashed his speed and made it to Kansas City territory before being dragged down at the Kansas City 39-yard line. While not a scoring play or a turnover, Mims' return was emblematic of the contributions of all three of Denver's units to a commanding victory. The thrilling return set up a 10-play, 39-yard touchdown drive by the Broncos' offense — its fifth opening-drive touchdown through eight games — that would give Denver a lead it would never relinquish.
They Said It: "By no means [was it] perfect today, but we made enough plays to win the game, not to mention the special teams plays that were made, and what a heck of a job by our offense to hold the ball, run the clock and give us some limited possessions while we're out there. I think that played a role, too. It was just a complete effort today. I'm really proud with how the guys battled and played." – safety Justin Simmons
ILB Josey Jewell jars the ball loose for Broncos' first takeaway
Situation: Defending first-and-10 from the Kansas City 43, 13:13 remaining in the second quarter, Denver leading 7-3
Breakdown: The defining factor in the Broncos' upset win over Kansas City was its plus-four advantage in the turnover battle. Denver's five takeaways started in the second quarter as inside linebacker Josey Jewell knocked the ball away from Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdez-Scantling. After Kansas City cut Denver's lead to 7-3 and then forced a punt, Mahomes threaded a pass to Valdez-Scantling for a first down to move the ball into Denver territory. Jewell, however, delivered a hit within moments and knocked the football loose. Simmons recovered the fumble and returned the ball to midfield, and three plays later, the Broncos' offense found the end zone again on an 11-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to extend its lead to 14-3. After not forcing a fumble in the teams' previous matchup this season, Denver's defense showcased its ability to force turnovers this time around. In the scope of the game, the play was key; before the fumble, the Chiefs cut the lead to 7-3 and forced a punt to regain possession. Instead of allowed a go-ahead score, though, the Broncos' defense got the ball right back for its offense.
They Said It: "I thought we did the things you do when you win. We were plus-four in the turnover battle. We rushed the ball better than they did. I thought we, defensively, did a fantastic job with their offense, and a tough offense." – Head Coach Sean Payton
CB Ja'Quan McMillian leaps in front of a Travis Kelce target for an interception
Situation: Defending first-and-10 from the Kansas City 35, 10:09 remaining in the second quarter, Denver leading 14-3
Breakdown: The Mahomes-Kelce connection was one of the major factors behind the Chiefs' 19-8 win in the teams' Week 6 matchup, as he caught nine passes for 124 yards. While Kelce was still the game's leading receiver with 58 receiving yards, he didn't dominate as he has in past games. On the Chiefs' next drive after the Valdez-Scantling fumble, Mahomes tried to force a throw to Kelce near the middle of the field, but second-year cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian undercut the route and extended his arms for the interception before tumbling to the ground. The combination of the Denver pass rush's consistent pressure and the Broncos' lockdown coverage kept Mahomes from making many of his signature big plays downfield, and both aspects were key parts of the first of Mahomes' two interceptions on the day.
They Said It: "Guys were making plays all day. We knew that we wanted to capitalize in the red zone. They gave us a short field, and we capitalized on our opportunities. It was awesome to battle. It was a heavyweight fight it felt like, and we came out on top." – quarterback Russell Wilson
OLB Baron Browning strip-sacks Mahomes for Broncos' third takeaway of the second quarter
Situation: Defending first-and-10 from the Denver 19, 0:56 remaining in the second quarter, Denver leading 14-6
Breakdown: The Denver defense's red-zone performance in Week 6 was one of its most encouraging developments; Denver held Kansas City to a single touchdown on five red-zone trips. Playing against the Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High, Denver achieved perfection, preventing a single Chiefs touchdown despite three Kansas City red-zone trips. The Broncos' most important red-zone play came as the Chiefs looked to tack on points before halftime. Limiting Kansas City to a field goal would have been a positive outcome for the Denver defense and preserved the Broncos' lead going into the halftime break, but the unit did even better. Outside linebacker Baron Browning forced Mahomes to step up in the pocket from his deep drop-back, then hit Mahomes' arm from behind to send the ball flying backward. Outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper beat Chiefs offensive tackle Donovan Smith to the loose ball for the third Denver takeaway of the quarter. Browning's strip-sack came in just his second game of the season and was the highlight of a performance that included two sacks and three quarterback hits.
They Said It: "For us to come up with a few of those takeaways was huge. A lot of them were point-saving plays. I think that set us up for success in the longevity of the game. We always talk about those four or five plays that make the difference, and I think those came up a lot on the defensive side of the ball today." – Simmons
WR Courtland Sutton secures his sixth touchdown of the season after a Kansas City muffed punt
Situation: Second-and-goal from the Kansas City 6, 10:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver leading 14-9
Breakdown: Despite a strong start to the game, the Broncos were unable to maintain distance between themselves and the Chiefs until several minutes into the fourth quarter. An eight-minute third-quarter drive ended without points after a blocked field goal, and Wilson was sacked to knock the Broncos out of field-goal range on Denver's ensuing possession. As Riley Dixon punted the ball away with 11:24 to play, the game still hung in the balance. That's when Denver's special-teams unit recorded a takeaway of its own, as inside linebacker Drew Sanders recovered a muffed punt within the Kansas City red zone. The Broncos' offense made the Chiefs pay for their mistake. On second down, Wilson stepped up in the pocket and lofted a pass while on the run to wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who ran a crossing route to perfection and found open space in the corner of the end zone. The pass was right on target, and Sutton secured the catch while keeping both feet in bounds. The Broncos' best red-zone performance in weeks – Denver turned its five red-zone opportunities into three Wilson touchdown passes – was a key difference in the game and gave them a two-possession lead rather than the 8-point advantage the Broncos would have held if they settled for a field goal. Sutton's touchdown reception marked his sixth of the season, tying his season-best in only eight games.
They Said It: "He's worked his tail off. He's someone that is super committed to what he's doing [in] his craft. His size and ball skills probably have a lot to do with [drawing pass-interference calls]. When you're matched up in some bump-and-run situations where you're trying to handle him and the ball is thrown high and away, I think a lot of it has to do with his skill set. He's got really good instincts for the ball when he's down the field." - Payton
Denver forces an incompletion on Kansas City's fourth-down attempt
Situation: Defending fourth-and-2 from the Denver 26, 7:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver leading 21-9
Breakdown: Midway through the fourth quarter, the Chiefs still had the opportunity to rally back into the game and advanced the ball near the red zone. The Broncos' relentless pass rush forced Mahomes into an incompletion on third down, but the unit still needed a stop on fourth down to foil Kansas City's drive. Mahomes got the look he wanted with receiver Skyy Moore finding open space on a skinny post route out of a bunch formation, but Denver safety P.J. Locke — who started the play on the opposite side of the field — made up ground and didn't allow Moore to gain enough separation to make an easy touchdown catch. Mahomes' pass went through Moore's hands and hit the turf for a turnover on downs, giving possession back to the Broncos' offense and firing up the home crowd. A week after Locke sealed the Broncos' win over the Packers with an interception, his range and football IQ turned out to be critical on the game's most important fourth-down attempt.
They Said It: "They've been winning these games over the last couple years. We knew if we needed to change this season around, we needed to get after them. Winning at home is a huge part of it, too. We just wanted to come out with that energy and that swag to us. I feel like we did that." – Cooper
Browning gets his second sack of the afternoon to set up fourth-and-27
Situation: Defending third-and-17 from the Kansas City 24, 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, Denver leading 21-9
Breakdown: The Broncos' defense did not let up in the final minutes of regulation. Simmons sealed the game with his second interception of Mahomes this season, but back-to-back sacks by the Denver pass rush on the preceding two plays forced the two-time MVP to revert to desperation mode on a nearly impossible fourth-and-27 conversion attempt. On third down, outside linebacker Nik Bonitto beat his man and got a hand on Mahomes but couldn't corral him. Browning was ready to pounce from his position right behind Mahomes, and in an attempt to juke Browning with a change of direction, Mahomes ran right into his own lineman and fell to the ground. Browning was credited with his second sack of the day for his efforts, and the Chiefs couldn't make magic happen on fourth-and-27 a play later. The Broncos would effectively run out the clock on the next possession, which earned Denver a streak-ending win.
They Said It: "[We had] just great pursuit of the ball. Every single play, people [were] hitting them hard [and] reading off the QB great. Everybody [was] just doing their job to the best of their ability and not trying to do too much." – Jewell