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Strong first half allows Broncos to escape Chiefs

Sep 15, 2014 - 5:40 AM Denver, CO ( - Stopping Peyton Manning was already going to be a daunting task.

Stopping him without three defensive starters only made it that much tougher.

Alex Smith did all he could to keep the injury-riddled Kansas City defense off the field in the second half, but Manning tossed three touchdown passes in the first 30 minutes and Denver held off the Chiefs, 24-17, on Sunday afternoon.

Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton tipped Smith's 4th-and-goal pass to ensure the victory with 15 seconds left.

The Chiefs (0-2), who held a 43-15 advantage in plays run and held the ball for 20:54 in the second half, regained possession at their own 34-yard line with 3:20 remaining after Brandon McManus booted a 20-yard field goal to give Denver (2-0) a 24-17 advantage.

Kansas City was aided by a trio of penalties on the drive, the first one an offsides call that negated an Aqib Talib 41-yard interception return for a touchdown on a 3rd-and-5.

Smith hit Travis Kelce for 20 yards on an ensuing 3rd-and-9 and the Chiefs' luck continued when it appeared that DeMarcus Ware strip-sacked Smith from behind two plays later. Nate Irving recovered the fumble, but it was ruled that Smith's arm was moving forward following a review and KC kept the ball.

A backpedaling Smith lofted a 21-yard completion to Dwayne Bowe to set up a 1st-and-goal from the 9, but Denver's defense stiffened up along the goal line for a second straight week.

"The defense out there, they were maybe bending a little, but not breaking," Manning said.

Each team had just three possessions in the second half. Kansas City came away empty following a 19-play, 10-minute march to begin the third quarter, but Knile Davis' 4-yard TD run finished off a 14-play, 7:42 sequence on its next drive, pulling it within 21-17 midway through the fourth.

The injury bug bit Kansas City again on Sunday. A week after losing Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive lineman Mike DeVito for the season due to Achilles injuries, KC lost two more Pro Bowlers.

Running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry both exited in the first half with ankle injuries. Charles exited early in the first, while Berry was being looked at by the medical staff on the Kansas City sideline late in the second quarter before heading back to the locker room.

Manning was 21-of-26 for 242 yards, Emmanuel Sanders caught eight passes for 108 yards and Demaryius Thomas hauled in five receptions for 62 yards and a score for Denver, which fended off the Indianapolis Colts, 31-24, last Sunday night.

The Broncos tallied 75 yards in the second half after totaling 250 in the opening 30 minutes.

Smith completed 26-of-42 passes for 255 yards, Kelce had four receptions for 81 yards and Davis carried the ball 22 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns following Charles' departure for Kansas City, which converted 11-of-16 third downs.

"There was great effort there and that can take you a long way," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "We can learn from this."

The Chiefs have dropped their first two games after beginning 9-0 a year ago.

Manning flipped a four-yard TD pass to Julius Thomas on Denver's opening drive to stake it to the quick lead before Kansas City put up the next 10 points.

Cairo Santos nailed a 45-yard field goal late in the first and Davis plunged in from two yards out on KC's next touch to give it a 10-7 edge.

The Broncos countered by posting touchdowns on their final two possessions of the half.

Manning hit Jacob Tamme for a 4-yard score midway through the second and the Chiefs picked up just one first down before punting.

Manning completed a 16-yard back-shoulder pass to Julius Thomas on a 3rd-and-8 and Demaryius Thomas picked up 21 yards on a 3rd-and-6. Demaryius Thomas later capped the 11-play, 88-yard march when he hauled in Manning's perfectly floated 12-yard TD pass in the back left corner of the end zone despite tight coverage from KC cornerback Chris Owens, giving Denver a 21-10 cushion.

On the Chiefs' opening touch of the third, Smith hit Kelce for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-18 and Malik Jackson picked up a roughing the passer penalty on a 3rd- and-13. Smith hit Donnie Avery for five yards to again move the chains on third down, then Denver cornerback Chris Harris was called for an illegal contact on the ensuing 3rd-and-8 to put the ball at the four.

Zach Fulton was called for a hold on 2nd-and-goal and Smith was sacked by Brandon Marshall a play later. Santos then pushed his 37-yard field goal wide right two snaps later.

Game Notes

It was Sanders' first 100-yard game of his career ... The Broncos were 3-for-8 on third down ... Julius Thomas is the first tight end in Denver franchise history to catch four TD passes in his first two games ... KC held the ball for 36:14.