KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The head coach of the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos knew his team would not have a leisurely afternoon Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
"When you've done this as long as I have, 24 years worth, you know they're always tough," John Fox said after his Broncos earned a 17-9 victory over the struggling Kansas City Chiefs.
"We talked about that all week. We watched the tape, and we knew they were a talented defense. They played us tough, and we expected it."
The Broncos (8-3) got what they expected: a tough game and a victory.
The Chiefs (1-10) played their best defensive game in many weeks as they kept Denver quarterback Peyton Manning off his mark, sacking him twice, hitting him on six other throws and grabbing an interception. The Broncos came in with a five-game winning streak in which they averaged 30 points per game, but none of that high-powered offensive play was visible Sunday.
Denver's 17 points were enough against an anemic Chiefs offense that did not score a touchdown and has scored just three TDs in the past seven games.
"Our defense deserved to win this game," said Brady Quinn, who started at quarterback for the Chiefs. "They did a great job, and we helped them out by keeping No. 18 off the field. We just couldn't make the plays to get the ball into the end zone."
With just over five minutes to play in the first half, the Chiefs led 6-0 thanks to a pair of Ryan Succop field goals and a defensive effort that did not allow Denver inside the Kansas City 19-yard line.
Manning and the Denver offense produced just 57 total yards on their first three possessions, one ending with a 47-yard missed field goal by Matt Prater and another with an interception by Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers on a long throw intended for wide receiver Eric Decker.
But Manning is Manning, and he was able to pull the Denver offense together for a pretty 11-play, 94-yard drive that closed out the first half. The march ended with a 7-yard scoring pass to tight end Jacob Tamme with 18 seconds to go before halftime. The PAT kick from Prater gave Denver a 7-6 lead after having played second fiddle to the Chiefs for most of the half.
"It was huge," Manning said. "Having two opportunities down in the red zone and coming away with no points -- that's the first time that's happened this year. That was a big touchdown."
The Chiefs came out in the third quarter and grabbed the lead back thanks to a 49-yard field goal from Succop. Jamaal Charles found some running room (he finished with 107 yards), and the Chiefs held onto the ball.
But the Broncos took the kickoff after Kansas City's field goal and moved 80 yards down the field in seven plays, with Manning hitting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 30-yard touchdown. It was a beautifully placed ball and nice catch by Thomas. Kansas City defender Jalil Brown had good coverage of his man, but the ball was just out of his reach. Denver took the lead for good at 14-9.
Prater added a 34-yard field goal in the final minute of the game to seal the win.
"It's a division game on the road, and defensively this (Chiefs) team is better than its record, and the game was what we expected, to tell you the truth," Manning said. "In this league, you are either getting better or you are getting worse. Today, we got a little bit better."
The victory was No. 149 in Manning's career, now the second-most victories in the history of the game by a starting quarterback. He trails only Brett Favre (186). Sunday's win broke a tie with Denver legend and current Broncos executive John Elwa.
NOTES: Manning also racked up his 14th season with at least 3,000 yards passing and 25 touchdown passes. He passed those numbers on the year in the first half. Only Favre had more career 3,000-yard passing seasons than Manning, and nobody in league history tops his 14 years with at least 25 scoring throws ... The Chiefs were without their best offensive lineman, as left tackle Branden Albert was inactive due to a back injury ... Prater missed two field goals, equaling the total he missed in the season's first 10 games.