By Mark Schiff
The game in which Peyton Manning set the all-time record for most passing yards is one he’d like to forget.
Manning was pulled from the game in the third quarter after struggling through one of the worst performances of his career, as Kansas City dominated Denver 29-13 to hand the Broncos their second consecutive loss. Although the Broncos sit at 7-2 with a comfortable lead in the AFC West, Denver’s first loss to the Chiefs since 2011 was particularly humiliating, as Manning’s four interceptions and the offense’s complete ineptitude allowed the Chiefs to build a 19-0 halftime lead and never look back.
Out of the ashes of embarrassment, here are your Week 10 team grades.
Manning was listed on the injury report with a foot ailment and it was clear from his lame-duck floaters that the injury robbed his passes of their velocity. But Manning’s poor decision-making continues to be just as disconcerting. When he was benched near the end of the third quarter, Manning was a pitiful 5-of-20 for 35 yards, with four picks and a passer rating of exactly zero.
It was a sorry effort all-around: The running game gained a miserable 69 yards; the offensive line was a turnstile for the Kansas City pass rushers; a banged up Emmanuel Sanders was held without a catch; most damningly, each of Denver’s first 10 possessions ended in either a turnover or a punt on a three-and-out. The only reason the grade above isn’t a straight “F” is due to Brock Osweiler’s three drives, all of which got into the red zone. In his first meaningful NFL action, Brock finished 14/24 for 141 yards, with a touchdown and a pick.
The Broncos defense did the best they could given the challenging circumstances of the game. With cornerback Aqib Talib suspended and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware out with a back injury, Denver’s defense was already without two of its best players even before the offense burdened them drive-after-drive with bad field position and little rest.
With the penalty situation largely under control (except for safety T.J. Ward, who was tossed out of the game for throwing a punch), the biggest concern for the defense is the sudden lack of turnovers. For the third straight game, Denver failed to get a takeaway, and with the offense struggling, the team is especially reliant on those types of big plays.
Special Teams: C
Denver’s Britton Colquitt bested his brother Dustin in the battle of the punting brothers (46.2 to 45.2 yard punting average), but there were no special teams fireworks like last week. The most meaningful action was the attempted onside kick to open the second half, which Brandon Mcmanus failed to execute properly. Denver tried and failed at another later and it doesn’t appear that the onside kick is one of his strengths.
This is Denver’s ninth game of the season and it’s clear that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Peyton Manning are still not at all on the same page. Denver’s play-calling is unimaginative, obvious and confoundingly one-sided; Manning was clearly struggling, yet there were just 16 rushes in the game, which means the running backs and offensive line can’t find their rhythm. It appears that the offensive synchronicity Denver seemed to discover against Green Bay was an aberration.
This was the type of thorough dismantling that can send teams into an existential crisis. Denver will try to find some answers next week on the road as they take on a surging Bears team.
Mark Schiff is a freelance writer and music journalist for AXS.com. In 2013, his coverage of the Seattle Seahawks ended in heartbreak when they defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Now covering his beloved hometown team, his knowledge and passion for pro football has resulted in multiple fantasy football championships. Find him on Twitter at @mihilites.