DENVER (AP)The Kansas City Chiefs own the Denver Broncos – even when Patrick Mahomes throws three interceptions and a 27-0 lead turns into a nail-biter.
Mahomes counterbalanced his mistakes with a trio of touchdown passes and the Chiefs (10-3) outlasted the Broncos 34-28 on Sunday. Russell Wilson left with a concussion early in the fourth quarter as Denver (3-10) lost to Kansas City for the 14th consecutive time.
”Just three bad decisions,” Mahomes said. ”Luckily for me, the rest of the team stepped up. Defense made a lot of stops in some critical moments when we were putting them in some bad situations. Even my special teams. (Punter) Tommy (Townsend) flipped the field a couple of times for us.”
Mahomes improved to 10-0 against Denver, becoming the fourth QB to ever beat one team 10 times without a loss. The Chiefs reached double digits in wins for the eighth straight season and they inched closer to their seventh consecutive AFC West crown.
The Broncos, well, they came up short again and lost a one-score game for the seventh time this season under rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett.
”We never finish the way we want to,” Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy said after a career-best three-touchdown day, ”but the one thing I can say for sure is that we never quit.”
The Broncos, who have lost five straight overall and eight consecutive AFC West games for the first time since divisional play began with the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, turned their 27-0 deficit into a ballgame by scoring three touchdowns over a 3 1/2-minute stretch spanning halftime.
Jeudy’s third TD came from backup Brett Rypien, making it 34-28 shortly after the Broncos lost Wilson to a concussion on a 14-yard scramble to the Chiefs 2.
Rypien had a chance to put the Broncos ahead following linebacker Josey Jewell’s second interception of the game with just under six minutes left. But Rypien was hit by Chris Jones just as he released a deep throw toward Jeudy, and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed picked off the high pass with 4:21 remaining.
A personal foul on Frank Clark after that interception pushed the Chiefs back to their 15-yard line, but Mahomes & Co. chewed up the rest of the clock, never letting the Broncos get another crack at the upset.
Mahomes threw for 352 yards and one of his three touchdowns was a no-look hook pass to Jerick McKinnon, who had two TD catches.
Mahomes was scrambling for a first down when he shook defensive lineman D.J. Jones and flung a pass across his body to a wide-open McKinnon, who raced down Denver’s dejected sideline for a 56-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead.
”I was committed to running,” Mahomes said, ”and I saw I was about to get hit like I did last week in Cincinnati, so I just kind of flicked it. I was just trying to get it to him whatever way possible.”
Mahomes and McKinnon connected on a more traditional 10-yard TD on Kansas City’s next possession. At that point, Mahomes had 224 passing yards to Wilson’s 33, but things would get even worse for Denver’s scuffling quarterback before they got better.
On fourth-and-2 at his own 45-yard line, Wilson tried to throw a screen pass to Brandon Johnson but didn’t get it high enough. Linebacker Willie Gay reached up and deflected the throw, corralled the ball in his left hand and stiff-armed Wilson with his right, sending him tumbling as he raced 47 yards for the touchdown.
”I was an athlete all through high school,” Gay said, ”so I knew I was going to be able to get that.”
His pick-6 put the Chiefs in charge at 27-0 with 4:32 left in the half.
Jeudy caught his first two touchdown passes, from 18 and 5 yards out, after Mahomes uncharacteristically threw interceptions – to Josey Jewell and Patrick Surtain II – on consecutive possessions, making it 27-14 at the half.
On the opening drive after halftime, running back Marlon Mack caught a short pass from Wilson and raced 66 yards for the end zone to pull Denver within 27-21.
Mahomes countered with a 4-yard TD strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
”Luckily we got the win,” Mahomes said. ”But you don’t win a lot of games when you’ve got three interceptions.”
By improving to 10-0 against the Broncos, Mahomes joined Andrew Luck, who started 11-0 against the Titans; Tom Brady, who went 10-0 against the Falcons; and John Elway, who won his first 10 against the Patriots.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Mahomes had a difficult day connecting, but coach Andy Reid said, ”you’ve got to give a couple of shout-outs to Kelce” after he caught four passes (out of nine targets) for 71 yards.
That made Kelce the first tight end in NFL history to record seven straight 1,000-yard seasons, and he became the fifth tight end to top 10,000 yards, joining Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe.
”Honestly,” Kelce said, ”right now the winning means more than any of those stats.”
Broncos LG Dalton Risner (back) missed his first game of the year. RB Mike Boone (ankle) and WR Kendall Hinton (hamstring) couldn’t finish.
Chiefs: At Houston next Sunday.
Broncos: Host Arizona next Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL