DENVER -- With the seconds ticking down and another opponent driving in a close game, the Denver Broncos were expecting the worst.
After three straight close losses -- two in overtime -- who could blame them?
|Clinton Portis fumbles twice, but ties a Denver record with four touchdowns.(AP)|
Losses by Oakland and San Diego early Sunday allowed Denver (8-6) to stay within a game of the AFC West lead, but it didn't come easy.
The Broncos dominated early, allowed Kansas City (7-7) to score 17 points in the final 15 minutes, then held on as Trent Green's desperation pass fell incomplete in the end zone as time expired.
"As the game was winding down, I was saying 'Not another overtime game. I can't take another overtime game,"' Broncos defensive tackle Lional Dalton said.
The Broncos, one of the AFC's best teams after opening the season 7-3, had stumbled to the edge of not making the playoffs with four losses in five games. Denver's three-game losing streak had come by a combined 12 points and the Broncos appeared headed toward another heartbreaker against Kansas City.
The Chiefs took over at their 39 with 1:50 left and drove to Denver's 15 with 25 seconds left. But a leg-whip by John Tait dropped the Chiefs back to the 25, then Green failed on a pass attempt with 5 seconds left.
Kansas City had one final shot, but Tyrone Poole knocked it down in the end zone as time expired.
The loss all but assured the Chiefs would miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
"This was big," said Green, who 18-for-42 for 310 yards and badly missed open receivers on several occasions. "Once they flashed it up on the scoreboard that the other teams had lost, and knowing we play those two teams the next couple of weeks, it was very costly."
The Chiefs were lucky to be in the game after having had to piece together their lineup.
Fullback Tony Richardson had to be carted off the field after being hit from behind by John Mobley early in the second quarter. Coach Dick Vermeil said he suffered a separated shoulder and is likely out for the season.
Priest Holmes had 161 yards on 18 carries, his fifth straight 100-yard game, but limped off to the locker room with a right hip injury early in the fourth quarter. He left on crutches, but Vermeil wasn't sure how long he'd be out.
Receiver Dante Hall, who had five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns, also was on crutches with an ankle sprain.
"We were out of personnel. We were out of backs," Vermeil said. "That was a scramble."
Portis, who was fighting the flu, ran for three touchdowns and 130 yards, his third-straight 100-yard game. He also had a spectacular 66-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter that put the Broncos up 28-7.
"I wouldn't tell the coaches that I was sick," Portis said. "I knew I could run and give them whatever I had."
Portis had touchdown runs of 51 and 3 yards as Denver dominated the first half, but he fumbled twice inside Kansas City's 20 to limit the Broncos' lead to 14-0.
The Chiefs cut the lead in half on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Green to Hall early in the third quarter, but Portis answered with a 1-yard touchdown run.
He followed with a 66-yard touchdown reception that extended the lead to 21 and left Kansas City's Shaunard Harts standing still.
Portis caught the ball around midfield, then left Harts flatfooted at the 45. He broke tackles near the 30 and 25, then outran the rest of Kansas City's defense before diving into the stands behind the end zone.
"I told him at halftime, 'You had two balls on the ground, but we're going to count on you. This team is going to go as far as you take us, and we're going to keep giving you the ball," said Broncos quarter Brian Griese, who completed 11 of his first 12 passes and finished 18-for-26 for 297 yards. "And he responded."
- Poole replaced struggling CB Deltha O'Neal in the starting lineup.
- Kansas City's Morten Andersen, who's been bothered by a sore right knee, was 1-for-2 on field goals.
- Portis set a team rookie record with his seventh 100-yard game. His four TDs tied Mike Anderson's team record, set Dec. 3, 2000, against New Orleans.
- Denver has won 27 straight games at home when a running back runs for 100 yards.
- Holmes failed to run for a TD for the first time in 12 games.
The Associated Press News Service
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