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What we learned from Chiefs' victory over Broncos

*On a bittersweet evening, the Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) survived a knee injury to Patrick Mahomes to trounce the division-rival Denver Broncos (2-5), 30-6, on "Thursday Night Football" to kick off Week 7. Here's what we learned: *

  1. Kansas City enjoyed a blowout three-score victory in the division to snap a two-game losing streak. And yet, Thursday night's romp over the Orange Crush feels like a crushing defeat. That's because, up 10-6 in the second quarter, Chiefs signal-caller and reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes converted a fourth-down QB sneak in Broncos territory but suffered a scary knee injury in the process. Mahomes was helped off the field and into the locker room after several minutes lying on the turf with his hands over his eyes. It's believed that Mahomes suffered a patella dislocation, NFL Network's James Palmer reported; he'll undergo an MRI to determine if there is any ligament damage. While it's unclear how much time the gunslinger will miss, Mahomes is bound to sit out multiple weeks if not the remainder of the season. His absence is a major blow, to say the least. When healthy, Mahomes' ability to extend plays, throw lightning rods from improbable arm angles and the like makes every player on Kansas City's offense look like an All-Pro. Ask Byron Pringle or Damien Williams. With Matt Moore under center, the Chiefs offense can contend; the veteran's touchdown toss to Tyreek Hill proved he can still hit speed in stride. But if Mahomes is out for longer than a few weeks, Kansas City might want to look elsewhere for a starting QB. Behind Moore on the depth chart is, well, no one, and the Chiefs only have rookie Kyle Shurmur on the practice squad. Until more is gleaned about the severity of Mahomes' injury, all K.C. can do is plan. The AFC West is still theirs to lose, but the Chiefs might have already lost too much.
  1. Against a Chiefs defensive front that had logged just four sacks in the last three weeks, Joe Flacco and the Broncos were ripe to break out on Thursday evening. Instead, Flacco and company broke down. Denver allowed six sacks in the first half (five on Flacco, one on punter Colby Wadman, whose second-quarter fake punt-pass in Denver territory failed miserably) and nine in total. Elijah Wilkinson (filling in for Ja'Wuan James) and Garett Bolles were human turnstiles against Frank Clark and Alex Okafor (two sacks each), with Bolles earning three offensive holding calls to boot. But the main culprit on the night was Flacco, whose flat-footed quarterbacking left him vulnerable to pressure and who surrendered himself too often to defenders when a fleeting footballer would have easily evaded them and extended plays. Following a game-opening 10-play touchdown drive, Denver embarked on 12 more drives, eight ending in a punt, two on downs, one on a strip-sack TD and one on the final whistle. Boos rained down like a hail storm from the rafters at Empower Field for the last 20 minutes of game time, and rightly so. There is nowhere for Denver to go for a quick fix, as there is not just one facet of this offense to blame. The offensive line, quarterback and offensive coordinator are all equally culpable. But Denver's already beset by injuries on the line; Drew Lock is on IR and Brandon Allen doesn't inspire confidence behind Flacco; and Rick Scangarello is a first-year OC. Something needs to change at Mile High, something has for a while, but maybe it needs to come at the top.
  1. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So let's celebrate the Chiefs pass rush for a hot sec. Led by Okafor, Clark and Emmanuel Ogbah, Kansas City generated pressure on 31 percent of dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats, with seven players forcing at least two QB disruptions. Okafor, Clark and Anthony Hitchens became the first team trio to each record at least two sacks and a forced fumble in the same game since 2003, per NFL Research. The assault on Flacco was a surprise given Kansas City's struggle to generate pressure in recent weeks. Kansas City entered Thursday night ranked 24th in sacks and 26th in QB hits and was missing its leader enforcer, defensive tackle Chris Jones. Despite all that, the Chiefs mustered their most stellar shutdown of a signal-caller this season.
  1. Denver failed where Indianapolis and Houston had succeeded in stopping Kansas City: The Broncos couldn't establish the run and couldn't keep the Chiefs off the field. Denver tried from the get-go but Phillip Lindsay (36 yards) and Royce Freeman (35 yards) rarely saw daylight and the Broncos saw too many third-and-longs. After breaking 100 rushing yards in three of their last four games, the Broncos finished with just 71 against the league's 30th-ranked run defense. Kansas City won the time of possession by four-and-a-half minutes after averaging the lowest TOP since Week 5. Tear up that blueprint.
  1. The Chiefs got a welcome boost from their skill-position players with Mahomes out. LeSean McCoy enjoyed a vintage Shady game, breaking multiple long runs en route to a 64-yard outing. Hill's touchdown was the highlight of Kansas City's dim second half and saw him hit over 20 mph. In addition to scoring Kansas City's first (and game-winning) touchdown on a crosser, Hardman ran a first-half punt back 36 yards to set up Kansas City for another score. If Mahomes is to miss multiple weeks, Moore and Andy Reid will need to rely on the bevy of shifty speedsters Kansas City has stockpiled over the years to carry the day. Thursday night was a good sign.
  1. Could this embarrassing home loss initiate a fire sale in Denver? Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris and Derek Wolfe are among three Broncos veterans on expiring contracts who boast unique value on the block. If John Elway chooses to shut it down, shipping one of those tricenarians out of town for draft picks will be his first move. (That, or benching Flacco for a healthy Lock.)
  1. Kansas City would kill for a bye right now, but the Chiefs won't enjoy a break for another four weeks. Before then, Kansas City faces a gauntlet of defenses in the Packers, Vikings, Titans and Chargers. Two of those tests are in prime time, and all of them could come without Mahomes under center. With Oakland (3-2) surprisingly nipping at their heels, the Chiefs can't afford to drop more than half of their next four contests.
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