Sunday Night Football: Chiefs clinch playoff berth with 22-16 victory over Broncos

The Broncos held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs out of the end zone for much of the night. But eventually the dam broke, as Kansas City scored a go-ahead touchdown and salted the clock away in the fourth quarter to win 22-16.

Denver had taken a 16-12 lead midway through the third quarter with quarterback Drew Lock’s 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim Patrick. But on the ensuing drive, Mahomes drew the Broncos’ defensive line offside for a free play and cashed in by hitting tight end Travis Kelce with a 20-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 left in the third quarter.

To that point, the Chiefs had kicked field goals on their first four red zone possessions.

Denver did get out to a 10-3 lead in the second quarter after Kansas City head coach Andy Reid didn’t challenge what was ruled an incomplete pass to wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the end zone. Hill appeared to not know he caught the deflected pass before it hit the ground. Instead, the Chiefs punted and the Broncos went on a seven-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Patrick making his first of two touchdown receptions on the night.

Kansas City cut Denver’s lead to 10-9 with a 23-yard field goal as time expired on the second quarter. And kicker Harrison Butker made another 31-yard field goal to give Kansas City its first advantage of the night at 12-10.

The Broncos didn’t roll over, however, with Lock capping a 11-play, 72-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patrick with 3:50 left in the third quarter. Trying to get up by seven, Denver elected to go for two. But Lock’s pass failed.

Down by three at their own 49 with 6:13 left, the Broncos elected to punt on fourth-and-three. But their defense couldn’t get off the field soon enough. Butker’s fifth field goal sailed 48 yards through the uprights to put the Chiefs up 22-16.

Denver had a last-minute drive, but Tyrann Mathieu intercepted his second pass to seal the victory.

Mahomes finished 25-of-40 passing for 318 yards with a touchdown. Kelce became the first tight end to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in five consecutive seasons, making eight receptions for 136 yards.

Though rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was active, he did not receive a touch. Le’Veon Bell finished as Kansas City’s leading rusher with 11 carries for 40 yards.

Led by running back Melvin Gordon’s 131 yards, the Broncos rushed for 179 yards in the loss — averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Lock completed 15 of his 28 passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

The Chiefs clinched a playoff berth with the victory, marking their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason — their longest streak in team history. Kansas City has been to the playoffs in all but one season since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. At 11-1, the Chiefs are currently second seed in the AFC behind the Steelers.

Denver is not mathematically eliminated from postseason contention at 4-8, but the club is nearly there.