When Denver signed Connor Barth to take over their kicking duties this week, the veteran asked to wear No. 1 in honor of longtime Broncos kicker Jason Elam.
Seems only fitting in retrospect.
Barth returned from a lengthy absence from the NFL to connect on all five of his field-goal attempts Sunday night, matching Elam’s franchise game record and lifting the Broncos to a 29-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s crazy,” said Barth, who missed all of last year after tearing his Achilles tendon in a charity basketball game. “My agent and I always talk about just one kick at a time, so that’s what I try to do every time and it worked out tonight.”
Peyton Manning threw touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas and C.J. Anderson, who also ran for 168 yards, as Denver (9-3) remained a game up on San Diego in the bunched-up AFC West.
The Chiefs (7-5) dropped two games back with their sixth straight loss to the Broncos.
“This was one of those fundamentally sound games,” said Denver pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, who had an interception and a sack. “This is the time of year where the whole team comes together.”
Alex Smith had 153 yards passing and two touchdowns for the Chiefs, the second of them to Jamaal Charles to make it 26-16 early in the fourth quarter. But Smith’s pass on the 2-point try fell incomplete, and the Broncos added another field goal to put the game away.
Smith was sacked six times and Denver held Kansas City to 151 yards of total offense.
“There’s really not a phase I can point to that was a positive in this game,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We all have to do better. We’re all in it together.”
It certainly wasn’t the kind of performance expected of the Chiefs, who emerged in a frenzy before the game wearing all-red uniforms for the third time in franchise history.
The Chiefs were honoring veteran safety Eric Berry, who will miss the rest of the season after a mass suspected to be lymphoma was found in his chest. Berry has professed his love for the red-on-red look, which the Chiefs wore last year against Dallas and this year versus New England.
While the Chiefs won both of those games, they hardly gave themselves a chance Sunday.
Manning capped an effortless 74-yard drive with a 23-yard third-down pass to Thomas in the first quarter. Then, after the Broncos forced a second consecutive three-and-out, Manning found Anderson out of the backfield on third down for a 15-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0.
Anderson, who went undrafted last year, was coming off a 167-yard rushing performance last week against Miami. Starting in place of the injured Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, he proved that it was no one-week fluke, gashing the Kansas City defense with nearly every touch.
“Just picking the right spots and following them,” Anderson said of his offensive line. “They get all the credit. I can’t get to any of those moves without getting to the holes.
Even when the Chiefs’ porous defense stopped the Broncos, they were usually within range for Barth, who was signed to replace ineffective kicker Brandon McManus.
Meanwhile, very little was going right for the Chiefs on offense, either. They had minus-10 yards in the first quarter and were still at 66 yards through the third quarter.
After recovering a fumble deep in Denver territory early in the second half, they managed three yards before kicking a field goal. On their next possession, Smith had a pass batted at the line and intercepted by Ware, the first pick he’d thrown in 179 attempts. And on the Chiefs’ next possession, Smith was sacked by Ware on third-and-1 to force another punt.
“We couldn’t sustain any drives,” Smith said. “It hurts.”
Then, when the Chiefs finally held Denver on third down, backup cornerback Marcus Cooper inexplicably let the punt to bounce off his leg. The Broncos recovered for a fresh set of downs.
Barth added his fifth field midway through the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“We have to do a better job putting players in the right position and we have to do a better job executing when we’re in that position,” Reid said. “We get that fixed we’ll be back on track, but we’ve stalled the last two weeks. We have to get this thing turned around.”
NOTES: Chiefs DE Allen Bailey left the game with a concussion. OG Mike McGlynn left with a quadriceps injury. Neither of them returned. … Denver has not lost at Arrowhead Stadium since the 2010 season. … Manning had 179 yards passing. The Chiefs still have not allowed a 300-yard passer this season. … Charles was held to 35 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Source: The AP