Mahomes, Hunt lead dramatic comeback against Broncos, Chiefs win 27-23
DENVER — A suddenly ambidextrous Patrick Mahomes rallied the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 27-23 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.
Thanks in part to a left-handed throw from the right-handed Mahomes in the final minutes as he was about to get sacked on third-and-5 at midfield, the Chiefs (4-0) took a two-game lead over the Broncos (2-2) in the AFC West with their sixth straight win over their rivals.
Down 23-13, Mahomes directed a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ate up more than six minutes and culminated with a 2-yard TD toss to tight end Travis Kelce, then added a 60-yard touchdown drive, handing off to Kareem Hunt for the 4-yard score with 1:39 remaining.
On that last drive, Mahomes was getting dragged down by Von Miller when he shifted the ball to his left hand and threw it to Tyreek Hill for a first down.
“I didn’t know he threw it with his left hand,” Miller said. “He’s a great quarterback.”
“Patrick worked real hard on that left-handed throw,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid cracked. “Some amazing plays there. We’ve seen it in practice but not under those conditions.”
It was the first time since 2004 that the Broncos blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at home.
In between Kansas City’s scoring drives, the Broncos, who had run roughshod over the Chiefs all night — a 7.2-yard average per run — suddenly abandoned their ground game in favor of three-wide receiver sets that resulted in a quick three-and-out that sent Denver’s exhausted defenders right back out.
“We ran the ball to control the game,” Joseph said, “but you throw the ball to score.”
After the three-and-out, struggling Broncos punter Marquette King shanked a 35-yarder out of bounds, giving the Chiefs the ball at their 40 with 4:35 left.
“He’s got to perform better,” Joseph said. “We’re at home and it’s his job to flip the field. It ain’t happening.”
Mahomes overcame a couple of flags that put Kansas City in a second-and-30 hole from their 31 and completed a 35-yard pass to Demetrius Harris down to the Broncos’ 11 at the 2-minute warning.
“Second-and-30, I’m thinking there’s no way they’ll be able to get this,” Miller said. “And they did.”
The play should never have counted, however, because the play clock expired before the snap. But referee Craig Wrolstad’s crew missed it.
“The clock was zero, but that’s not my job,” said Broncos coach Vance Joseph, adding that he raised the issue with an official who insisted the Chiefs had gotten the play off in time.
“He (said he) looked up and it was zero and the ball was gone,” Joseph said. “I disagree. I disagree.”
After the Chiefs took the lead, the Broncos reached the Kansas City 28, but Case Keenum overthrew an open Demaryius Thomas near the goal line racing down the right sideline. Then rookie Courtland Sutton caught a first-down pass but overhanded it back on a failed hook-and-ladder that resulted in a turnover on downs with 5 seconds left.
The officials had another blunder when Mahomes was about 1½ yards past the line of scrimmage when he scrambled and hit Kelce for a 29-yard catch to the 3 early in the second half. Joseph appeared to be reaching for his red challenge flag but never threw it.
Denver’s defense bailed out its coach by forcing the Chiefs to settle for Harrison Butker’s chip-shot field goal tied it up at 13.
On Denver’s first drive of the second half, Keenum threw a 25-yard pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman, but Chiefs defensive back Eric Murray wrested the ball away as they tumbled out of bounds. Heuerman was starting in place of Jake Butt, who sustained his third ACL tear of his career while practicing special teams on Thursday, ending his season.
It was Keenum’s sixth interception with Denver, one fewer than he had all of last season in Minnesota.
Phillip Lindsay ran 16 times for 69 yards and a score and Royce Freeman ran eight times for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Freeman took a toss from Keenum and slipped seven tackles on his way to a 14-yard touchdown in which he dragged linebacker Anthony Hitchens across the goal line to tie it at 10.
The Broncos led 13-10 at halftime.
Thomas and Broncos teammate Brandon Marshall both stood with their teammates during the national anthem. Since the preseason, both players had been retreating to the tunnel nearest their bench during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Chiefs: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins pulled a hamstring in the second quarter and didn’t return. Linebacker Dee Ford (groin) left in the fourth quarter.
Broncos: Right tackle Jared Veldheer left in the first quarter with a knee injury and was replaced by Billy Turner.
Chiefs: Host Jacksonville on Sunday to begin a stretch of three home games in four weeks.
Broncos: Visit the Jets on Sunday, the first of three road games in four weeks.