KANSAS CITY -- The Denver Broncos established control of the AFC West by beating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-28 at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
With four games left in the regular-season schedule, the Broncos are 10-2 and hold a one-game lead over the 9-3 Chiefs, a team that Denver has beaten twice in the last three weeks.
Quarterback Peyton Manning threw a pair of interceptions in his first nine pass attempts that created a 14-point deficit for the Broncos. But Manning bounced back quickly, making up for those giveaways by throwing five touchdown passes, with four to wide receiver Eric Decker.
Manning threw for 403 yards, with Decker catching eight passes for 174 yards and touchdown catches of 41, 37, 15 and 1 yards. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas caught three passes for 106 yards, including a 77-yard catch. The other touchdown catch was for 3 yards by running back Knowshon Moreno.
The Chiefs' defense started strong, but was picked apart over the game's final three quarters by Manning. Kansas City's offense struggled in the second half, scoring only a late touchdown and producing minimal yardage as quarterback Alex Smith was under constant pressure from the Denver pass rush.
The Chiefs started strong and held a 21-14 lead at halftime thanks to contributions from their offense, defense and special teams. Manning and Smith traded interceptions in the first quarter. Smith's turnover was especially painful as Denver linebacker Wesley Woodyard caught the ball in the end zone. Manning's errant pass was grabbed by Chiefs safety Quintin Demps and helped set up the first score of the game, a 17-yard touchdown pass from Smith to wide receiver Junior Hemingway. Kansas City held an early 7-0 lead.
Manning came back and threw the first of those four touchdown passes to Decker, this one on a 41-yard play and Denver tied it at 7-7.
That tie did not last long. On the ensuing kickoff, Chiefs returner Knile Davis caught Matt Prater's kick eight yards deep in the end zone. Davis ran up the middle, cut to his right, broke a pair of tackles and went 108 yards for a touchdown in the longest play in franchise's 54 seasons.
Kansas City's defense came back on Denver's next possession and cornerback Marcus Cooper picked off a Manning pass intended for Decker, returning it for 20 yards to the Broncos' 22-yard line. Five plays later, Smith hit tight end Alex Fasano for a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 21-7 lead.
Late in the half, Manning led the Broncos on a 70-yard, nine-play drive that finished up with a 3-yard touchdown pass to running back Knowshon Moreno and the score was 21-14 at the intermission.
In the second half, Denver scored on its first three possessions, with Manning throwing three touchdown passes to Decker. Those scores finished drives that traveled 80, 92 and 95 yards and gave the Broncos a 35-21 advantage in the early moments of the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs cut that by a touchdown, when they moved 80 yards on 17 plays with running back Jamaal Charles scoring from the 1-yard line to make it 35-28. Kansas City drove down for a possible tying touchdown but a fourth-down throw by Smith to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was knocked down in the end zone by Denver safety Mike Adams.
NOTES: The 108-yard kickoff return touchdown by Davis eclipsed the previous Chiefs record-long play, a 106-yard kickoff return by Noland Smith against the Broncos on December 17, 1967. ... The Broncos began the game without three defensive starters (DE Derek Wolfe, DT Kevin Vickerson and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and starting TE Julius Thomas due to injuries and illness. ... The Chiefs were without starting left OL Justin Houston, sidelined with a dislocated right elbow. ... Denver had CB Champ Bailey playing for only the third time in 12 games this season because of a foot injury he suffered during the preseason. ... In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs lost TE Alex Fasano (concussion) and LT Branden Albert (knee injury).