Chiefs edge Broncos on wild overtime finish: Final score, eight things to know
The Chiefs and Broncos will meet again on Christmas night after Sunday night's thriller
If we were to give a pithy name to what just transpired in Denver over 75 minutes of football, we would probably go with something like "Death by 1,000 Alex Smith dump-off passes." Because for much of the evening, that's what the Kansas City Chiefs ' offense consisted of -- well, that and Smith taking six sacks and countless other hits behind the line of scrimmage -- but Captain Checkdown was just getting warmed up.
In the fourth quarter, and then in overtime, Smith shed the game-manager label and looked as much like a franchise quarterback as we're ever going to see.
When it was over, the Chiefs outlasted the Denver Broncos 30-27 thanks to a Cairo Santos bank shot as time expired.
No idea if he called it but either way, bank's open.
Smith never gets this chance if the Broncos convert on their second overtime series. But facing a fourth-and-10 from the Chiefs' 44-yard line with 1:08 left, coach Gary Kubiak didn't punt, but rather sent out kicker Brandon McManus to attempt a 62-yarder.
It never had a chance, and that set up Smith and the Chiefs for the winning drive. And that's exactly what happened.
Here are eight more takeaways from an unforgettable night in Denver.
1. Smith wins battle of game managers
The largest takeaway, and one that we've heard pretty much since Smith was the first overall pick back in 2005, is that he's a game manager.
Alex Smith, assistant to the game manager.— ✈️ Roy Drones Jr ✈️ (@chiweethedog) November 28, 2016
This is considered a slight because game managers aren't labels we assign to the likes of Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger . But it definitely applies to Smith -- and, perhaps to a lesser degree, his Sunday night counterpart Trevor Siemian -- which is exactly what coach Andy Reid is looking for.
Yes, Smith is the definition of replacement level (he came into this game as the 18th-ranked quarterback, according to Football Outsiders, and finished 15th in 2015, 14th in 2014 and 20th in 2013), and it can be frustrating as hell to watch.
Took until 6:41 to go in the 4th quarter for Alex Smith to attempt a throw more than 10 yards down the field— Billy Moy (@PFF_Billy) November 28, 2016
But guess what? Since Reid and Smith joined forces, Kansas City has finished 11-5, 9-7, 11-5 -- and is now sitting at 8-3.
That's good for second place in the AFC West, a game behind the upstart Oakland Raiders , which also makes the Chiefs a wild-card team (while the Broncos are now on the outside looking in).
The lesson: There is no shame in being a game manager, particularly one that plays in Reid's West Coast offense. Because history tells us that if you're the beneficiary of a really good defense, Death by 1,000 Dump Offs can actually pay dividends.
Hey look, QB Wins!
Yes, we know, quarterback wins is a terrible stat, one that doesn't come close to measuring what you would like it to. But it's worth mentioning that Siemian, the 2015 seventh-round pick who didn't see the field until this season, was impressive against the Chiefs.
He finished 20 of 34 for 368 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. That's impressive enough that you could make a case that Siemian deserved to win. But this is football, where countless variables can affect an outcome; anything from Santos' kick bouncing off one upright and behind another to the Broncos' right tackle repeatedly whiffing on Justin Houston early in the game.
"He played like a champ," Kubiak said of Siemian. "We struggled in the first half being able to protect him in any way."
Ah yes, that first half ...
2. Justin Houston is a matchup nightmare (duh)
Von Miller and Justin Houston are two of the league's best pass rushers, and that was made abundantly clear Sunday night. Early in the second quarter, Houston so thoroughly destroyed Broncos right tackle Ty Sambrailo that Kubiak had no choice but to bench him for Siemian's safety.
This one play serves as a microcosm of what Houston was doing to Sambrailo early in the game:
Mercifully, Sambrailo was pulled, replaced by Donald Stephenson . The Chiefs then moved Houston to the other side, where he promptly split left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Max Garcia and demolished Siemian -- forcing a fumble in the process, mind you -- which led to the first two points of the game.
So how did Houston's first half end up?
And that, folks, is how your defense can take over a game. It's a good thing, too, because as you may have heard, Smith is a game-managing, no-points-scoring quarterback. Which brings us to the Chiefs' special teams ...
3. Hi, this is Tyreek Hill and he's very, very fast
We mention this because rarely does it make sense to kick to him, under any circumstance, even following a safety.
Seriously, the man runs a 4.24 40 -- kick it somewhere else. Every time.
Just to be clear: The Chiefs scored nine points in 12 seconds without the offense touching the ball.
4. Get to know Jordan Taylor
Jordan Taylor isn't a household name, but he has been integral to Denver's success, even when he was toiling away on the practice squad. As an undrafted rookie last season, he had a very important job: catching passes from Peyton Manning while the quarterback rehabbed a foot injury that sidelined him for seven games. Taylor would do his part in the early-morning throwing sessions before joining the rest of the team for afternoon workouts. His hard work didn't go unnoticed.
"I feel bad because I was running him into the ground and he hadn't even started practice yet," Manning said days before the Super Bowl. "I have a bad habit of saying, just one more, and one more can turn into 10 more. I don't think I could have gotten though my rehab and gotten back if it had not been for him. I am very grateful for his help."
How grateful? Manning bought Taylor his first suit to wear on the flight from Denver to San Francisco for Super Bowl week.
Fast forward to Sunday night and Taylor looked plenty sharp in his team-issued uniform, finding a way to create space between the Chiefs' defensive back and the boundary and hauling in this nifty Siemian touchdown pass midway through the third quarter.
5. Friendly reminder: Special teams are important
How important? According to this 2007 Advanced Football Analytics study, "Special teams accounts for about 20 percent of the game in terms of winning and losing."
That 20 percent may not sound like much, but keep reading:
Special teams plays comprise far fewer than one in every five plays on the field. General managers may want to take another look at how much they're paying their punters, kickers and returners. Perhaps the league is noticing the importance of special teams evidenced by the recent attention return specialists have received in the draft.
The Chiefs didn't score following Jordan Norwood 's muffed punt, but the muff did switch field position, at least for two plays (it also infuriated teammate Aqib Talib , who shoved Norwood near the sidelines after the miscue).
6. Also important: A downfield passing attack
Siemian, who was invisible for much of the first 30 minutes, caught fire in the fourth quarter. He first threw a 60-yard laser to Emmanuel Sanders to get into Chiefs territory, and two plays later he did it again to give the Broncos a 17-16 lead with 7:47 to go.
7. Phillip Gaines had a forgettable evening
Desperately needing a third-down stop with minutes left and trailing by a point, the Chiefs were in a zero-blitz coverage. This meant Phillip Gaines was on an island and ... well, things couldn't have gone worse.
Yep, that's Bennie Fowler sashaying into the end zone while Gaines tries to figure out what planet he's on.
The second half was a tough one for Gaines, who was also abused by Sanders on the previous touchdown drive (see above).
Had an advance scout tell me 3 weeks ago he's never throw it to Peters. Just go after Gaines as much as possible. Wise man— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) November 28, 2016
To recap: Gaines was thrown at eight times during regulation and gave up six catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns, per the telecast.
8. The officials got it right
It has almost become reflexive, blaming the officials for any manner of blown calls, but in the waning seconds of regulation, on the game's most important play, they got it right. Hill caught a Smith pass near the goal line and was ruled down inside the 1, but because the Chiefs were out of timeouts, the clock would almost certainly run out. Except that the play was reviewed (rightly) and overturned (rightly again) -- Hill would have been down at the one-inch line if he had possession, but he didn't gain possession until he was in the end zone.
That's a touchdown, which made it 24-22 Denver, and the Chiefs then converted the two-point conversion that sent the game to overtime. Unreal.
Also unreal: We might not even be talking about overtime if Kubiak had gone for two following Fowler's touchdown. If the Broncos convert, they're up by nine and the game is effectively over; if they don't, they lead by seven and end up in overtime anyway.
Going for 2 by Kubiak had nothing to do with his defense. It's the no-risk, all-reward decision. Think, people.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) November 28, 2016
And just so we're clear:
Kubiak should have gone for 2. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb Dumb.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) November 28, 2016
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