Broncos blast Chiefs to grab AFC's No. 1 seed

Dennis Georgatos, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos wrapped up the regular season with a flourish, and they don't want to stop now.
Denver locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC postseason as Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns in a 38-3 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
With their 11th consecutive win, the Broncos (13-3) claimed a first-round bye and home field throughout the conference playoffs. The Chiefs (2-14) clinched the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2013.
"It's exactly the way we wanted it," longtime Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. "You want to be able to play in front of your fans, and our fans are great. There's no better place that you want to play. Not having to go on the road, it's going to be good for us. Denver's a great place to have home-field advantage."
The Broncos, riding the second-longest winning streak in franchise history, moved into the conference's top slot after the Houston Texans lost earlier, 28-16 to the Indianapolis Colts, Manning's former team.
"We had to win this game for a number of reasons, and I thought we played well, which was important," Manning said. "I thought we got better this week, and we need to get better during the bye week."
Manning keeps elevating his play, as does the rest of the team.
The veteran quarterback completed 23 of 29 for 304 yards in three quarters of play. He threw touchdown passes of 11 and 16 yards to Eric Decker and 13 yards to Demaryius Thomas.
It was the 73rd time in Manning's career he's had three or more touchdown passes in a game, breaking a tie with Brett Favre for the NFL record.
"We faced a surgeon today, Peyton Manning, and he operated very well," said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, whose job security is in question. "We couldn't get anything going offensively, we couldn't slow him down. It's probably the worst game of the year. I think the season finally caught up to these guys, and I think it showed on the field."
Thomas gave Denver a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter when he made a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone, managing to come down with both feet in bounds before being shoved out by safety Tysyn Hartman.
With the game firmly in hand after Lance Ball's 1-yard touchdown run gave Denver a 32-point edge, Manning was lifted at the start of the fourth quarter in favor of Brock Osweiler.
The Broncos, after all, have the playoffs to think about.
"I think even when we put the team together, I thought we could do special things," Bailey said. "It is all about how guys grow together, how chemistry comes together. I really don't think we are there yet. I feel like we have a lot of room to improve. If everyone in this locker room believes that, the sky is the limit for us."
For the Chiefs, quarterback Brady Quinn endured a rough outing, taking four sacks and failing to get the offense into the end zone. Quinn completed seven of 16 passes for 49 yards as the Chiefs absorbed their fourth straight loss in what could be Crennel's last game as Kansas City's coach.
"We just didn't play very well, and that's going to leave a bad taste," Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki said. "We've just got to improve as a team and go from there."
Kansas City, which went 0-6 against its AFC West rivals, secured the top pick in draft by "winning" a schedule-strength tiebreaker with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also finished a league-worst 2-14.
Denver essentially put the game away late in the second quarter after stopping the Chiefs with successive sacks of Quinn by Derek Wolfe and Rahim Moore. Manning, operating out of the no-huddle, took over at midfield and quickly moved to the Broncos within striking distance.
With the ball at the Chiefs' 16-yard line and 10 seconds remaining in the half, Manning and Decker teamed up for their second scoring pass of the game. The receiver latched on to another precision pass from his quarterback with an over-the-shoulder catch that gave the Broncos a 21-3 halftime lead.
Earlier in the second quarter, Manning finished off another long drive from the 11-yard line with his first touchdown pass to Decker, who burst past two defenders in the end zone to come open over the middle.
Setting the tone for another ragged showing, Kansas City's offense started off with a three-and-out.
The Broncos, meanwhile, finished off their opening possession with a 3-yard touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno, the second consecutive week that they had reached the end zone during their first series.
NOTES: The Broncos won a team-record 13 in a row during their Super Bowl run in 1998. ... Denver finished AFC West play 6-0, the second time in team history the Broncos swept their division opponents. ... Manning also set team records for most yards passing in a season (4,659) and most completions (400). In both cases, he surpassed Jay Cutler (4,526 and 384, both in 2008). ... Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles finished with 1,509 yards rushing, the third player in the team's history to reach the 1,500-yard milestone. He gained 53 yards on 14 carries Sunday. ... The Chiefs were outgained 277-89 in the first half. ... Chiefs left tackle Donald Stephenson, who started in place of Branden Albert (back), left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Stephenson was replaced by Jeff Allen. ... Return specialist Trindon Holliday (ankle) was among the Broncos' inactive players. Jim Leonhard and Omar Bolden stepped in to replace him.

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