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2023 NFL season, Week 6: What We Learned from Chiefs' win over Broncos on Thursday night

Kansas City Chiefs
2023 · 5-1-0
Denver Broncos
2023 · 1-5-0


  1. Chiefs still have work to do offensively. It was not the Chiefs’ prettiest effort Thursday, continuing a recent cold spell offensively where things were just good enough to get by. Patrick Mahomes ended with a nice-looking stat line (30-of-40 passing, 306 yards, touchdown) and 31 rushing yards. But he also threw a bad interception in the red zone, costing the team three points. The first half was the Travis Kelce and Isiah Pacheco Show, but the red-zone execution and some curious decisions -- more on that later -- led to their second sub-20-point outing this season. Kelce held up after Sunday’s ankle injury (although he did leave briefly with about five minutes left) and ended up with nine catches for 140 yards, but he did the bulk of that in the first half. The Chiefs volumed their way to a 389-yard game, but it’s clear they’re still stuck in second gear.
  2. This time, you can put blame on Russell Wilson. The narrative coming into the game that Wilson was a big reason why the Broncos were 1-4 had felt like a little bit of scapegoating or low-hanging fruit at best. No, Wilson was clearly not the only reason for Denver’s struggles -- duh, the defense -- but he has left some plays on the field this season, especially in the second half of Sunday’s home loss to the Jets. The bad news for Wilson is that we can definitively say his poor play factored into Thursday’s loss to the Chiefs. The Broncos had been running the ball well on the opening drive, but it ended on Wilson’s sack and a turnover on downs. Wilson struggling to feel pressure was an issue late against the Jets. Four days later, it played out more than once. Wilson really wasn’t unduly pressured, but he often held the ball or ran into sacks, and his accuracy on the move wasn’t sharp early on.
  3. Broncos’ strategy and play calling both fell flat. The Broncos’ first timeout of the first half came before fourth-and-3 on the opening drive, just over five minutes into the game. Sean Payton knew his team needed six points, not three, after driving to the Kansas City 38-yard line. But Wilson took a sack before getting a pass off. Wilson isn’t off the hook for his poor play, but the Broncos’ offensive game plan felt uninspired at best. Denver attempted one pass longer than 10 yards downfield in the first three quarters. It entered the game with three receivers with more than 200 yards apiece, yet was seldom able to get them the ball in space. Where was the play-action? And on top of that, the Broncos somehow got away from a run game that was fairly productive early. The whole thing was out of whack until late in the game when it was too little, too late.
  4. Not Andy Reid’s finest night either. Reid earned a few groans when he settled for a field goal on the opening drive, facing a fourth-and-3 from the Denver 17-yard line. Perhaps Reid just wanted to get his offense some points -- and confidence, amid a mild cold streak. But when Reid lined up for a field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Denver 6 on the Chiefs’ third drive, the crowd let him have it. Only problem was, the Chiefs faked it -- and were stopped. Hey, maybe it’s just me, but if it’s fourth down and I’m not kicking, I want Patrick Mahomes’ hands on the ball. As it was, two red-zone trips only netted the Chiefs three points, and Denver was able to make it a one-score game with six minutes left. Reid also struggled as a play-caller, dialing up some other gadget plays that fell flat. You understand he wants to give his team a spark, but that was a lot of specials for a short-week game.
  5. Denver’s embattled defense hangs tough in losing cause. Vance Joseph has deserved some of the heat applied after the Broncos were in the basement -- in some cases, by a mile -- in multiple defensive categories entering Week 6. There were some signs of optimism in Sunday’s loss to the Jets, but the improvement the Broncos showed defensively Thursday deserves a tip of the cap. Even if the Chiefs might not be their most potent selves, this was only the sixth time Mahomes has been held under 20 points. For a defense that gave up 70 a few weeks ago, accomplishing this with short rest on the road was nothing short of admirable. Nik Bonitto provided multiple key pressures, including on Justin Simmons' INT of Mahomes. Jonathon Cooper also helped force that play and had a good night. Ja'Quan McMillian had some nice tackles behind the line. It wasn’t perfect, and the group wore down a bit, but Joseph’s unit gave the team a chance.

Next Gen stat of the game: Both of Russell Wilson’s interceptions came when the Chiefs sent five-plus pass rushers (2 of 6 passing, 13 yards, two INTs versus the blitz).

NFL Research: Harrison Butker made a 61-yard field goal before halftime, the second 60-plus yarder in his career. He’s one of only seven kickers in NFL history with multiple makes from 60 yards or more.

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