KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Every few years, an NFL team does the seemingly impossible by winning a game despite turning the ball over five times.
The Jaguars did it in their wild-card playoff game against the Chargers in January. The Dolphins did it a couple of years ago against the Texans, the 49ers against the Steelers in 2019 and the Broncos against the Chargers three years earlier.
But it's hard. So hard that not even the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, with their reigning MVP quarterback, could pull off the feat against Denver on Sunday. Patrick Mahomes lost a fumble and threw a pair of interceptions, Marquez Valdes-Scantling fumbled the ball away after a catch and, perhaps most damaging, recently reacquired Mecole Hardman muffed a punt at the Kansas City 5-yard line late in the third quarter and with the outcome still very much in the balance.
The Broncos scored two plays later to take a two-possession lead, and they only extended it with a late field goal, wrapping up a 24-9 victory that snapped their own 16-game losing streak to their AFC West rival.
“I haven’t seen five turnovers," said the Chiefs' Andy Reid, who was coaching his 394th game and has witnessed hundreds more as an assistant over the years. "I saw people that were involved with that; I haven’t really been involved in those type of things.”
The turnovers were the most glaring problem Sunday, especially given that the Broncos turned it over only once. But they were far from the only ones, and that is worrisome as the Chiefs prepare to head to Germany to face the Dolphins this weekend.
Skyy Moore, their second-year wide receiver, dropped what should have been an easy fourth-down touchdown reception that would have gotten the Chiefs within 21-16 midway through the fourth quarter. The running game was bottled up again, gaining just 62 yards on 16 attempts. The offensive line allowed three more sacks.
Making matters worse: Mahomes was ill and the defense was missing playmaking linebacker Nick Bolton to injury.
“It kind of is what it is. It’s going to happen at some point," said Mahomes, who had never lost to the Broncos in his career. "We try to do whatever we can to bounce back, because that’s all you can do. You’ve got to learn from the mistakes you made this game.
“I’m trying to be better going into Germany this next week and kind of getting the momentum back in our favor,” Mahomes added. "Obviously, it wasn’t our day, but we can continue to get better and better.”
The Broncos did everything they could to take away tight end Travis Kelce and he still managed six catches for 58 yards, and he remained the only sure-handed target that Mahomes has had in the passing game this season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Rashee Rice continues to make strides as a rookie, but the Chiefs have little else to rely on in the passing game. They hoped the trade for Hardman, who spent his entire career in Kansas City before signing with the Jets, would help matters, but his muffed punt was one of the most costly plays of the game. Moore's dropped pass might have been second, and Valdes-Scantling's fumble might have been the third. The wide receiver corps in Kansas City remains a significant problem.
George Karlaftis and Mike Danna are doing exactly what the Chiefs expected of them: take advantage of all the attention on All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones to get to the quarterback. Karlaftis had 2 1/2 sacks against the Broncos to give him a team-best six, while Danna had another to give him 5 1/2 this season.
Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton are supposed to be the run-stuffing defensive tackles in the Kansas City defense, but they were nonfactors on Sunday. The Broncos ran for 153 yards, the third straight game an opponent has topped the 100-yard mark.
LB Willie Gay hurt his tailbone against the Broncos. The loss of him only magnified the fact that Bolton was not active.
59.2 — Mahomes was 24 of 38 for 241 yards with no touchdowns and two picks, giving him a quarterback rating of 59.2. That's the second-worst of his career behind a game against — coincidentally — the Broncos in 2021, when Mahomes was 15 of 29 for 184 yards with no TDs and a pick for a 57.3 rating. (The Chiefs won that game 22-9.)
The Chiefs plan to head to Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday. They will practice there Friday, with a normal Saturday walk-through before playing old friend Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins at Deutsche Bank Park on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL