DENVER — In the aftermath of the Broncos’ first win over the Kansas City Chiefs since 2015, cornerback Pat Surtain II offered his opinion on which Denver accomplishment on Sunday was more impressive: keeping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs out of the end zone, or the Broncos’ five takeaways.
Surtain quickly chose the five takeaways, though surrendering only nine points to the AFC’s top-ranked team was no small feat, either.
“We just told ourselves this week, once we get after the ball, we have a great chance to win,” Surtain said. “We [are] just improving week in and week out to make plays on the ball, and today was exceptional, performance-wise. We [will] just keep building it.”
Two weeks after holding Mahomes and the Chiefs to 19 points on “Thursday Night Football,” the Denver defense took another step forward in its finest performance of the season. The Broncos intercepted two Mahomes passes and forced a pair of Kansas City fumbles, while the special-teams unit recovered a muffed punt to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. Denver also kept Kansas City out of the end zone on the Chiefs’ 11 drives, limiting the visitors to three field goals.
It all added up to a commanding 24-9 victory over the AFC West leaders and a surge of momentum for the Broncos heading into their bye week.
“We knew if we needed to change this season around, we needed to get after them,” outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper said. “Winning at home is a huge part of it, too. We just wanted to come out with that energy and that swag to us. I feel like we did that.”
One of the few differences between the teams’ two matchups proved to make a tremendous difference: the return of outside linebacker Baron Browning. Absent in the teams’ Week 6 matchup and playing in just his second game of the season, Browning racked up two sacks and caused a Mahomes fumble in the red zone in the second quarter.
Browning focused on his unit’s overall performance and highlighted the Broncos’ ability to maintain its strong play across all four quarters as a difference-maker.
“We came out fast some games before, but I feel like this is the first time [that] we played a complete game on both sides,” Browning said. “Not coming out after halftime dead, still keeping that fire, still attacking [and] staying aggressive. I think this is the best game we’ve played this season.”
Browning wasn’t the only Broncos player to put serious pressure on Mahomes. Though Denver finished the game with three sacks, the pass rush recorded 11 quarterback hits and consistently forced Mahomes to leave the pocket and resort to backfield scrambles, while the secondary locked down Kansas City’s receivers. The Broncos limited Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who recorded 124 yards in the previous matchup, to 58 yards on nine targets.
“We did the things you do when you win,” Head Coach Sean Payton said. “We were plus-four in the turnover battle. … Defensively, [the defense] did a fantastic job with their offense, and a tough offense. We didn’t have the sack production, but we had a lot of hurries, and I felt like we did a good job of keeping [Mahomes] off-schedule.”
Denver’s performance in the run game was even more stout. The Broncos outgained the Chiefs 153-62 in rushing yardage and allowed their fewest rushing yards since Week 1.
“We just told ourselves during the week that we will come out here and dominate,” Surtain said. “Give effort all four quarters, and that’s what we did as a defensive unit. The effort was there, we made plays [and forced] the turnovers.”
The Broncos finished plus-four in turnover differential and made the most of their takeaways. In the second quarter, Denver had three takeaways in a span of four Kansas City drives: a forced fumble from inside linebacker Josey Jewell, an interception from cornerback JaQuan McMillian and Browning’s strip sack. Rookie inside linebacker Drew Sanders’ recovery of a muffed Kansas City punt later set up Denver in position for a 6-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Courtland Sutton, giving the Broncos a two-possession lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
For the Broncos’ final turnover, Simmons sealed the game with his fifth interception of Mahomes, which is the most any player has picked off the two-time MVP.
Simmons is the longest-tenured Broncos player and had lost his previous 15 games against the Chiefs. After the game, multiple Denver defenders talked about how much it meant to them to see Simmons capture that elusive victory.
“I’m so happy for him,” Cooper said. “I’m happy for everybody on this team. To finally get over that hump and beat this team, I think it’s huge for us, and we’re going to continue the momentum in this bye week and when we play the Bills.”
After their bye in Week 9, the Broncos will face some of the league’s top offenses in the second half of the season. Still, Denver believes it has found its defensive identity and can match up against the NFL’s top teams and dominate — a claim it proved convincingly against the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday.
“It was just a complete effort today,” Simmons said. “I’m really proud with how the guys battled and played. [We’re going to] hit this bye, rest up and get ready to make this push in the second half.”