DENVER (AP) Peyton Manning put more hits on the Kansas City Chiefs than they put on him.
Manning saved a touchdown by tackling linebacker Derrick Johnson, and the Chiefs were utterly unable to return the favor Sunday night, failing to add to their NFL-leading sacks total in a 27-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“Our plan was to get to the QB but the ball is coming out quick,” Tamba Hali said. “He did a great job. Their team did a great job protecting him.”
The only time they got to Manning was in the postgame scramble to shake the four-time MVP’s hand after he handed them their first loss of the season.
“To go sackless against the leading sack defense in the NFL, that’s a great testament to those guys,” Manning said about his much-maligned offensive line that came under fire after he took such a beating of late.
Manning had his ankles heavily taped but he wasn’t hit or hurried by the Chiefs, who came into the game with a league-high 36 sacks and left the Rocky Mountains without adding to that number.
“I thought he did a good job getting the ball out fast and I thought he worked the pocket well,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “There were times when we had pressure and you saw him slide and throw the opposite (way) which isn’t an easy thing to do. Most guys wouldn’t be able to get away with it.”
The Chiefs finally found a defense every bit as good as their own and ran into a quarterback they couldn’t bring down.
The teams are tied atop the AFC West at 9-1 with a rematch looming Dec. 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.
This marked the first loss with the Chiefs for Reid, who fell to 13-2 after the bye, and for the 32 Chiefs who weren’t a part of last year’s 2-14 debacle.
Although the Chiefs stifled Manning for much of the night, they never led in the game pitting teams with the best combined record this deep into the season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
Treating the four-time MVP like all those backups they beat up on over the last six weeks, the Chiefs had Manning flustered well into the second half, but he still finished with 323 yards passing, his eighth 300-yard game of the season, continually finding Wes Welker or Demaryius Thomas for timely big plays that set up scores.
Julius Thomas caught a touchdown pass and rookie Montee Ball had two TD runs.
Most disturbing of all for the Chiefs was that the Broncos took a page right out of Kansas City’s playbook in locating two long-lost ingredients that are essential for any team with designs on winning a championship in today’s pass-happy NFL: a good ground game and a stout defense.
The Broncos only gained 104 yards on 36 carries for a 2.9-yard average, but it was enough and it was effective, keeping the chains moving and the pass rush off Manning.
The Chiefs hadn’t surrendered more than 17 points to any opponent all year, and the Broncos had that just 5:55 into the second quarter when Ball bulled his way in from a yard out for a 17-7 lead.
Ball’s 8-yard scamper in the third quarter made it 24-10.
It was quite the comeback by Ball, who couldn’t get the handle on a handoff from Manning in the first half and Johnson scooped it up and was rumbling toward the end zone for what would have been the Chiefs’ sixth defensive TD when he was tackled by Manning at the Denver 18.
On the next play, Anthony Sherman fumbled the ball right back as Quentin Jammer pounced on it at the 26.
Manning then hit Demaryius Thomas for 70 yards, setting up Julius Thomas’ 9-yard TD catch and a 10-0 Denver lead.
Manning wore gloves on both hands with the temperature in the low 40s. Many of his passes were short and he finished 24 for 40. But he wasn’t sacked and never even hurried.
Alex Smith, on the other hand, was sacked three times and finished 21 for 45 for 230 yards and two TDs. His final six passes after making it a 10-point game with five minutes remaining went for minus-6 yards.
Johnson didn’t drudge off the field downtrodden, however.
“They ran the ball a lot tonight and they got the ball out of Peyton’s hands,” Johnson said. “If we can get up on them or keep the score down a little bit (next time) … they’re coming to our house so it will be a lot better.
“We’ll get a handle on it. I’m not worried. We’re not sitting back shocked like we’re not this team that we thought we were. We’re 9-1 and things are still looking up for the Chiefs.”
NOTES: G Jon Asamoah (calf), T Eric Fisher (shoulder) and DE Mike DeVito (knee) left with injuries.