DENVER — Peyton Manning walked away a winner in the biggest game of the year so far and, as a bonus, the Broncos might not even have to send his uniform off to the cleaners.
Manning threw for 323 yards and a touchdown Sunday night and was barely touched by Kansas City’s sack-happy defense in Denver’s 27-17 victory over the NFL’s last undefeated team.
It means the ‘72 Dolphins can rest easy for another year. And it puts Denver and the Chiefs in a tie atop the AFC West at 9-1, with a rematch set in two weeks.
Manning has another big game before that — at New England in yet another showdown against Tom Brady. If the Broncos’ offensive line does anywhere near as good a job in that one as it did against the Chiefs, the quarterback’s ailing ankles — mummified with athletic tape for this critical game — should be feeling much better.
“The protection was outstanding, we ran the ball consistently, tried to keep them off-balance,” Manning said. “We wanted a mix of running and passing game and I’m really proud of those guys up front.”
With Lindsey Vonn and boyfriend Tiger Woods on the sideline to watch the NFL’s must-see game of the year, the Denver offensive line, featuring tackles Chris Clark and Orlando Franklin, shut out Kansas City’s sack duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali along with the rest of the KC defense, which came in with a league-leading 36 sacks.
“I think they did a good job of getting the ball out fast,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “They worked the pocket well. A few times we had pressure, you saw him slide and throw the ball out, which isn’t easy to do. But we can do a better job there. We can get a little more pressure on him and we’ll work on that.”
Any pressure at all would be an improvement.
The Chiefs didn’t record a single hit on Manning and he was barely touched all night. In fact, his most notable contact came in the first quarter when he and Montee Ball flubbed a handoff that Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson scooped up.
Johnson was barreling toward the end zone and what could’ve been a 7-3 lead. Manning lowered his shoulder and tripped him up. The Chiefs’ offense came out and fullback Anthony Sherman promptly fumbled the ball back to the Broncos.