DENVER – The Kansas City Chiefs weren't devastated by their first loss of the season.
They spoke about playing the Broncos again in two weeks with the Arrowhead Stadium crowd on their side. Even though Denver won 27-17, the Chiefs felt the gap between them and the Broncos isn't that wide.
"We see them back in two weeks, and that's the sweetest thing about it," running back Jamaal Charles said. "I think they were at a great advantage, on defense the crowd was into it the whole game. Now we're going back to Arrowhead and now it's going to be our turn. We haven't lost a game at home this year so hopefully we can return the favor."
The problem is, the Chiefs showed they're exactly what everyone who was skeptical of their 9-0 start figured they were all along.
That's not entirely bad. The Chiefs played pretty well on defense, just like they had the first nine weeks. They forced six punts and a turnover against the best offense in the NFL. Quarterback Alex Smith didn't make any major mistakes, like usual. The special teams were fine. They didn't do anything to beat themselves.
But the problem with the 2013 Chiefs, which will probably keep them from making a deep playoff run, is that they didn't do anything to beat the Broncos either.
Smith tried pushing the ball downfield a few times, but the Chiefs don't have many players that can beat a defense and they didn't get any huge plays. They're sorely lacking a playmaker outside of Charles. The defense didn't get to Peyton Manning all night. The team that led the NFL in sacks coming in didn't register one quarterback hit on Manning. Denver's only turnover came on a botched handoff, so the Chiefs defense didn't make much happen. And coach Andy Reid played it safe, punting at Denver's 41 in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs were losing by 14 points, and kicking it deep instead of trying an onside kick with 4:56 left when they cut Denver's lead to 10 points.
That worked when the Chiefs were playing the weakest schedule in the NFL through nine weeks. That was enough to beat the parade of backup quarterbacks Kansas City was fortunate enough to face in four of the last five weeks.
That's not good enough to beat Denver, and the problem is, the Chiefs are probably going to have to beat the Broncos on Dec. 1 if they want to win the division.
"We're not going to lose our confidence," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "We're a good team. We're 9-1 right now. But at the same time, we know we need to get a handle on Denver. If we're going to go all the way we need to figure out how to beat Denver."
The Chiefs talked about how Sunday night's game would have been different had they not made a few mistakes. They lamented not scoring a touchdown late in the second quarter instead of settling for a 20-yard field goal, and if they hadn't fumbled one play after recovering a Broncos fumble at Denver's 18-yard line. They believe they're not far off.
"Listen, we played a good football team and they got us today," Reid said. "We'll bounce back."
"To be honest with you, I'm glad this happened early," safety Eric Berry said. "We got tested. See what we can correct and keep pushing forward. We played ball, we just messed up on some minor things. We can get it right."
The confidence is a great sign, and the Chiefs are still a very good football team. You don't become 9-0 without being very good.
But what the Chiefs have to figure out in a hurry is if they can overcome their deficiencies to become great. Sunday night showed they're not quite there yet.
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