Patrick Mahomes was hardly prime-time material on "Sunday Night Football" against the rival Broncos, but he never needed to be. With another strong showing from Steve Spagnuolo's defense, this time against a flailing Teddy Bridgewater and Denver offense that got life only from rookie running back Javonte Williams, the Chiefs claimed an ugly but important Week 13 win on Sunday, beating the Broncos 22-9 to improve to 8-4 and stay atop the AFC West.
Here are some immediate takeaways from Sunday night's Chiefs win:
Why the Chiefs won
Spagnuolo's defense is the new Andy Reid offense. Does that make sense? Mahomes was erratic and oddly averse to the big play once again, resulting in quiet nights for guys like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and Reid didn't help with some questionable clock management (why not use Mahomes rather than avoid him with plenty of time to spare before halftime?). But the Chiefs never really had to worry thanks to their "D" feasting on Denver's inefficient and overly conservative attack. Willie Gay Jr. and Melvin Ingram downed Bridgewater, but Juan Thornhill and Daniel Sorensen made life even worse for him with easy open-field picks -- one of which turned into six. Mahomes obviously contributed, scoring with his legs on a scramble and finding Darrel Williams for a couple of big gains, but this "W" belongs to the defense. And that shouldn't be too surprising considering the way this season has gone for Kansas City.
Why the Broncos lost
On a night Mahomes once again struggled to look like his play-making MVP self, all Bridgewater had to do was turn in a competent performance to keep the Broncos in the mix. Instead, he crumbled under pressure, rushing or forcing throws down the stretch and digging Denver's hole deeper than it ever needed to be thanks chiefly (pun intended) to a pair of picks thrown right into enemy hands. Not even Williams' smooth running (which kept the Broncos in control of the clock early), or a couple of late Mike Boone big plays, could offset the damage done -- and lack of rhythm -- from the pocket. Their conservative approach was once again an issue, too; look no further than a two-point try after their first touchdown, in which Bridgewater threw short of the goal line. Defensively, Denver didn't get Mahomes to the ground, but it's hard to fault the "D" on a night when it kept the Chiefs' weapons under wraps. This one's squarely on Teddy and Co.
Either one of Teddy's picks qualifies as the true marker of Denver's downfall on Sunday night. The first one came with the Broncos down just 10 points with over two minutes left in the third quarter, killing Denver's chance to pull within three after a string of solid carries from Williams. The second one came after a Chiefs field goal extended K.C.'s lead to 13 and really put the nail in the coffin, with Bridgewater driving at the Chiefs' 25 before letting one go under pressure on fourth-and-2 and having Sorensen snag it and run it back 75 yards for the score.
Play of the game
Give Sorenson some credit, not only for eyeballing Bridgewater's pass from the get-go but outracing everyone (and running over Bridgewater) to complete the pick-six that sealed Denver's defeat:
The Chiefs (8-4) will be back at Arrowhead again in Week 14, this time for a key divisional rematch with the Raiders (6-6), who fell to Washington Football Team on Sunday. The Broncos (6-6), meanwhile, will return to Denver, where they'll host the Lions (1-10-1), who are fresh off their first victory of the year -- a walk-off stunner against the Vikings.