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11/18/2013 1:16 AM EST
Manning leads Broncos to 27-17 win over KC
DENVER 27, KANSAS CITY 17

By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

DENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning walked off the field showing no
trace of a limp and hardly a spot of dirt.

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 after taking a beating the last couple of
weeks - should be feeling much better.

"They were under fire last week because Peyton got hit a few
times but they've done a great job all year," said Broncos
interim coach Jack Del Rio, now 2-0 while John Fox recovers from
heart surgery. "We knew this was going to be a game you had to
play well in the trenches to have a chance."

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.

"Our plan was to get to the quarterback but the ball is coming
out quick," Hali said. "He did a great job and their team did a
great job protecting him."

So good, in fact, the Chiefs didn't even record a single hit on
the quarterback.

"We just keep our heads down and keep blocking - don't look at
the scoreboard, don't look at the time, keep blocking your guy -
like tunnel vision," Clark said.

The most notable contact of the night for Manning 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.

"I was kind of right there," Manning said about the tackle. "You
don't feel good about leaving the field. They turn around and
fumble right away and we go and score. That's a pretty critical
series right there."

Three plays after the back-to-back fumbles, Manning made the
game's biggest play on offense, spotting receiver Demaryius
Thomas in single coverage on the sideline for a 70-yard gain
that set up the quarterback's lone touchdown pass - a 9-yard
strike to Julius Thomas for a 10-0 lead.

The Chiefs' defense, which came into the game also leading the
league in points allowed (12.8), remained stout throughout
against the league's highest-scoring offense (41.2). But
eventually, Manning and Co., overwhelmed them, going 79, 65 and
62 yards for their last three scores and a 27-10 lead.

Ball capped two of the drives, once from 1 yard and another time
from 8, to atone for the fumble, which was actually charged to
Manning.

The Chiefs, who hadn't lost since a 38-3 setback in Denver last
December to close out a 2-14 season, hadn't allowed more than 17
points all year - a simple and effective explanation for one of
the biggest turnarounds in NFL history.

But the offense, led by Alex Smith, simply isn't built to win a
high-scoring showdown.

Smith finished with 230 yards and two touchdowns. He completed
four passes for 57 yards to Dwayne Bowe, who started, as
promised, while his legal case for marijuana possession plays
out. Jamaal Charles, who came in leading the AFC in rushing with
725 yards, added 78 to that.

"We didn't do a good enough job offensively," Kansas City coach
Andy Reid said. "That's my responsibility. We're a young
football team. We'll get it worked out and fixed and get better
next week. `'

The game-time temperature of 43 degrees brought Manning's
blue-and-gray glove out for the first time this season but
didn't slow the quarterback or his offense at all.

Knowshon Moreno ran for 79 yards and kept the chains moving for
Denver, while Wes Welker took his turn as Manning's favorite
target, catching eight passes for 72 yards before leaving to be
evaluated for a possible concussion.

Though one touchdown pass marked a season low for Manning, it
gave him 71 in his year-plus with the Broncos, already tying him
for third in franchise history with Jake Plummer and Brian
Griese. Manning has 34 on the season and is still on pace to
break the record of the man he'll face next week - Brady - in
yet another big game for the Broncos, this time at New England.

Manning refused to answer questions about his ankles after the
game. "Not doing the weekly checkups and updates," he said.

No need on this night.

And while the Chiefs got shut out on the sack end, Shaun
Phillips had a monster game for the Broncos: 10 tackles, two
quarterback hits, two pass deflections and 1.5 sacks to more
than make up for an off night from Von Miller, who only had one
tackle.

Notes: Broncos S Rahim Moore left the game with a lower leg
injury. ... Del Rio's first challenge of the season was a
success. It gave the Broncos a first down with less than 5
minutes left after the officials had marked them short after a
third-down gain. ... The Broncos finished with 13 penalties for
82 yards, including three apiece on Kansas City's last two
scoring drives.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

---

Follow Eddie Pells on Twitter: http://twitter.com/epells

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