Sluggish Chiefs beat Broncos for 15th straight time, 27-24

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Jerick McKinnon, and the Kansas City Chiefs overcame another sloppy start to hold off the Denver Broncos 27-24 on Sunday.

Isiah Pacheco and Blake Bell also scored for the Chiefs (13-3), who overcame a 17-13 third-quarter deficit to beat the Broncos for the 15th consecutive time while keeping alive their hopes for the AFC's No. 1 seed and lone postseason bye.

The Chiefs began the day tied with the Bills, who play Cincinnati on Monday night, for the conference's best record.

For a while the Broncos (4-12) looked as if they would cap a chaotic week that began with the firing of first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett in a stunning victory. But a late letdown by one of the league's best defenses, and another interception by embattled quarterback Russell Wilson, resulted in the first loss for interim coach Jerry Rosburg.

Wilson threw for 222 yards and a touchdown while also running for a pair of scores, the second of them — after two costly penalties on the Kansas City defense — pulling Denver within 27-24 with 6:14 left in the game.

The Broncos got the ball back with just under four minutes to go, too, and picked up a quick first down. But the Kansas City defense stiffened near midfield, and Chris Jones sacked Wilson on fourth-and-2 to effectively end the game.

The Chiefs' sluggish start against the downtrodden Broncos wasn't all that surprising. For all their success this season, they have habitually played down to the opposition, whether it was in their overtime win at Houston or their 34-28 victory over the Broncos just three weeks ago.

Kansas City fumbled a hold on an early PAT. Mahomes threw an interception in the end zone. And Kadarius Toney fumbled a punt return deep in Kansas City territory, setting up Wilson's touchdown run that gave Denver a 10-6 lead.

But the Chiefs also have proven over the years their ability to strike quickly, and they did that after falling behind for the first time Sunday. Mahomes answered with long passes to Toney and McKinnon, a penalty on third down gave them a fresh set of downs, and McKinnon turned a screen pass into a touchdown reception for the fifth straight game.

That streak is the longest for an NFL running back since Bill Dudley of the Lions in 1947.

The Chiefs struggled to maintain momentum after halftime, though, going three-and-out on their first three possessions. And the Broncos, with their third play-caller of the season in offensive coordinator Justin Outten, capitalized with a 63-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter.

Then the Chiefs began looking like the Chiefs. And the Broncos like the Broncos.

Mahomes led the AFC West champs briskly downfield before hitting Bell from 17 yards for his first regular-season touchdown catch. And on the very next play, Wilson threw a wobbler under pressure that L'Jarius Sneed picked off, setting up McKinnon's second touchdown catch of the day and his eighth in the past five games.

The Broncos scored in the fourth quarter to give themselves a chance before Kansas City put the game away.

INJURIES

Broncos: RB Marlon Mack (hamstring) left in the first quarter and LG Dalton Risner (elbow) in the third. CB Damarri Mathis went into the concussion protocol in the second. LB Baron Browning (back) and DL D.J. Jones (knee) were inactive.

Chiefs: LG Joe Thuney (ankle) left late in the third quarter and WR Skyy Moore (hand) in the fourth. Sneed also hurt his hip on his interception return in the fourth.

UP NEXT

The Broncos conclude their season next Sunday against the Chargers.

The Chiefs visit the Raiders on Sunday in their regular-season finale.

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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press