Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo.
Peyton Manning was wooed by the Chiefs early in the offseason, after the four-time MVP had been cut loose by Indianapolis and before he signed a five-year deal with Denver.
On Sunday, he showed exactly why Kansas City was after him.
Manning threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns, and led the Broncos down the field in the final minutes when the Chiefs frantically were trying to get a stop, setting up a field goal that sealed a 17-9 victory and their sixth consecutive win.
It allowed Manning to break a tie with his boss and Broncos vice president John Elway with his 149th win as a starting quarterback, trailing only Brett Favre (186) for most in NFL history.
“Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We played pretty good as a defense most of the game, but he made a few plays, one or two more plays than we’d like him to make, and he came up with a victory.”
Naturally, Manning was quick to pass the praise to someone else.
In this case, it was Knowshon Moreno, who stepped into the starting lineup after Willis McGahee landed on injured reserve this week and ran for 85 yards.
Manning also handed out kudos to Jacob Tamme and Demaryius Thomas, who were on the receiving end of his touchdown throws.
“I’ve got to tip my hat to Knowshon Moreno,” Manning said. “He stepped up (Sunday) and did a heck of a job. Really an impressive effort by him.”
Not so much by the Chiefs offense.
Jamaal Charles ran for 107 yards, but the Chiefs (1-10) were done in by penalties, missed opportunities and a conservative approach that has not yielded a touchdown since the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Nov. 12, a span of more than 11 quarters and 173 minutes.
They could manage only field goals by Ryan Succop for the second consecutive game.
“It’s really about stopping the run,” Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. “If you can limit that run game, you put the weight on their passing game, which hasn’t been that great this year.”
Quinn was 13 of 25 for 126 yards and an interception.
“Hats off to our defense,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “We struggled a bit against the run, but they’re a very good run team. ... Something we work very hard on is the red area, and holding them to three field goals was a key in the game.”
Kansas City actually established an early lead for the third consecutive game on Succop’s first-quarter field goal, and seemed to be outplaying Denver (8-3) the entire first half.
They had a chance to go ahead 10-0 when they faced fourth-and-2 at the Denver 4, but Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel elected to kick another field goal against a team that had scored at least 30 points in five consecutive games, drawing a chorus of boos from the crowd.
“I thought points on the board were important,” Crennel said by way of explanation.
Problem was that touchdowns trump field goals.
On the Broncos’ final drive of the half, Manning completed five consecutive passes before finding Tamme on third-and-goal from the Kansas City 7 with 18 seconds left in the second quarter.
The touchdown catch, on which the tight end dragged safety Eric Berry into the end zone, gave the Broncos a 7-6 lead and wiped out all the hard work that Kansas City had put in over the first 25 minutes.
Denver’s Matt Prater missed his second field goal try of the game early in the third quarter, and Succop’s 49-yarder gave Kansas City its first second-half lead of the season.
But once again, a failure to get into the end zone proved fatal.
Manning, who surpassed 3,000 yards passing earlier in the day, rode the legs of Moreno into Chiefs territory, and that’s when he lobbed a pass over nickelback Jalil Brown and into the hands of Thomas for the go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter.
“That was a great catch down the sideline against tight coverage,” Manning said.
The Chiefs twice had chances to overcome the 14-9 deficit late in the fourth, but they failed to move the ball after taking over at their own 37. After getting it back, Crennel chose to punt on fourth-and-6 at the Broncos 47 after a series of penalties ruined the drive.
It was their last chance to retake the lead.
Denver tacked on a field goal by Prater in the closing seconds, and after Jacksonville held on to beat Tennessee, the Chiefs were left as the league’s only one-win team.
“We’re frustrated every week. Every time we get a loss, it’s frustrating,” Charles said. “I don’t know when it’s going to stop, but hopefully we can did deep down in our souls and find a way to get out of this.”
Ed Zurga/Associated Press