Broncos have fallen to seventh in AFC playoff race
November 28, 2016
DENVER — Brandon McManus was wide left and now the defending Super Bowl champs are on the outside looking in on the AFC playoff race, too.
The Kansas City Chiefs capitalized on short field position following McManus’ missed 62-yard attempt to drive down and win it 30-27 on Cairo Santos’ 34-yarder that clanked off the left upright and over the crossbar in the final second of overtime Sunday night.
That left the Chiefs (8-3) a game behind Oakland (9-2) in the AFC West while the Broncos (7-4) slipped behind the Dolphins (7-4) for the current final playoff spot.
In pregame remarks on the NBC broadcast, DeMarcus Ware called this “a must-win game for us. And this right here will put us over the top, put us to the next level.”
Instead, the defending champs slipped behind a six-pack of teams, including division leaders Houston and Baltimore, which both have worse records than Denver at 6-5.
Winners of six straight games, Miami has the Broncos beat on the conference tiebreaker as it stands now.
“We just got to get into the playoffs,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “I feel like if we get in the playoffs, we can be scary for anybody.”
That task just got a whole lot trickier for the Broncos, who hit the road for the next two games, at Jacksonville and Tennessee, before returning home for a game against New England. They wrap up against the Chiefs and Raiders.
The Broncos have won the AFC West each of the last five years but they’ve already lost to every team in the division.
KUBIAK’S TOUGH NIGHT: Not only did he pick what turned out to be the wrong move — punt, go for it or try the field goal — on fourth-and-10 from the Chiefs 34 with just over a minute remaining — but Broncos coach Gary Kubiak also got whistled for getting in the way of an official running down the sideline.
That took 15 yards off Emmanuel Sanders’ 64-yard catch. But the Broncos bailed out their coach two plays later when Trevor Siemian hit Sanders for a 35-yard touchdown.
They couldn’t bail him out after McManus missed what would have been the longest game-winning overtime field goal in NFL history.
BREAKDOWNS: The Broncos’ special teams had a rough night as they allowed an 86-yard kick return for a score by Tyreek Hill, saw Jordan Norwood muff a punt and were called for an illegal formation on a field goal attempt, which led to a Kansas City touchdown.
All this after special teams came up big at New Orleans two weeks earlier by blocking an extra point and returning it for the first game-winning defensive 2-point play in NFL history.
Norwood recovered his first muff in the first half but it set up Kansas City’s safety. His second one came at midfield after Denver’s defense had recorded two sacks and forced Dustin Colquitt to punt out of his own end zone.
Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib shoved Norwood in the back as he was trudging off the field following the turnover.
“This loss right here was on everybody — offensively, defensively, special teams, coaching,” Sanders said. “Everybody didn’t do their job tonight. It’s a hard loss, but we’ve got to bounce back.”
REMEMBERING DAD: Chiefs long snapper James Winchester had a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter in his second game since his father was slain. Michael Winchester was killed by a disgruntled former Southwest Airlines employee outside an Oklahoma City airport earlier this month.
“I’m just thankful to be a part of this team and just come out and contribute,” Winchester said.
SEEING YELLOW: The Broncos had 15 penalties for 97 yards, including three on Kansas City’s game-tying drive to send the game into overtime.
“We have to do a better job with that,” Von Miller said. “We always do a good job with that, but it was just a tough patch right there. … We’ll be better.”
TRIPLE THREAT: Rookie Tyreek Hill’s trio of touchdowns came on a return, a rush and a reception. Gale Sayers was the last player to accomplish the feat, way back in 1965 at Minnesota.
“I am full of speed,” said Hill, who showed it off during his 86-yard return on a free kick following a safety that gave Kansas City a 9-3 halftime lead despite gaining just 49 yards of offense.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed.
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