The Kansas City Chiefs needed to step up.
Midway through the second quarter against the Broncos on Thursday night, that much coach Andy Reid made clear to his team. The Chiefs had lost two straight heading into the outing, and now, after a fourth-down quarterback sneak with 10 minutes left in the half, Patrick Mahomes had been ruled out of the game with a knee injury.
To finish what they started, backup quarterback Matt Moore needed to be himself. Every other player would have to leave a mark.
They did, giving Reid his 200th career win with a dominant 30–6 victory over the Broncos.
It only took two minutes after Mahomes’s exit for Kansas City to answer Reid’s call. After a 20-yard field goal from Harrison Butker put the team up 13–6, the Chiefs’ defense extended the lead by another score, scooping a Joe Flacco (21-of-34 passing for 213 yards) fumble and returning it five yards for the touchdown.
The defensive play was an extension of what the unit had been able to accomplish early in the contest. After sacking Flacco twice for 13 yards in the first quarter, the Chiefs smothered him for another three after Mahomes went down. By the time it was all said and done, Kansas City’s defense racked up nine sacks for 79 yards––all that after coming into the night tied for 25th in the league with a pedestrian 11 sacks through six games.
The Broncos’ ground game wasn’t any better. Despite putting up 184 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in Denver’s wins over the Chargers and Titans, running back Phillip Lindsay couldn’t get anything going against Kansas City’s 30th-ranked rushing defense. The second-year rusher was able to muster up just 36 yards on 11 attempts on the night.
There were early glimpses of hope for the Broncos, especially after Flacco marched the team’s offense 75 yards down the field to finish a 10-play opening drive with a one-yard touchdown from Royce Freeman to put Denver up 6–0. But the defense was no match for Mahomes. In the full quarter he was on the field, the reigning league MVP had his way with the secondary, completing 10 of his 11 passes for 76 yards and a 21-yard touchdown to Mecole Hardman before putting Butker in position to make it 10–6 with a 33-yard field goal.
Mahomes’s supporting cast took care of the rest. Moore finished 10-of-19 for 117 yards and a touchdown strike to Tyreek Hill (five receptions for 74 yards). LeSean McCoy added 64 yards on 12 attempts on the ground. The Chiefs overcame the absence of their star quarterback, improving to 5–2 on the season.
How much longer they’ll have to endure Mahomes being sidelined is still unclear. The third-year signal-caller went in for an X-ray after the play, and initial reports have indicated that he suffered a dislocated kneecap and not a fracture.
And while the Chiefs won’t know the extent of the injury until Mahomes undergoes an MRI on Friday, they do know losing the center of their high-powered offense won’t be easy. With Mahomes, the Chiefs may not have needed to step up the way Reid asked them to on Thursday.
Without him, they’ll have to.
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1. Saquon Barkley is well on his way back.
2. How Pierre Desir found himself a home with the Colts, from The Athletic's Zak Keefer.
3. Sam Darnold thinks the Jets' offense can be unstoppable when this player returns.
4. Kenyan Drake might be on the move from Miami.
5. With Jay Gruden gone, Dwayne Haskins is starting to get his chance.
No, Detroit is still not over it.
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