The Chiefs had the ball back late in the fourth quarter Sunday, and were facing fourth down in Denver territory with just over 6 minutes left on the clock.
Coach Romeo Crennel thought about going for it — indeed, thought hard enough that he called a timeout to give himself extra time to weigh his options. But he ultimately sent out the punt team, and Kansas City never had another opportunity to take the lead.
With four-time MVP Peyton Manning directing the offense, the Broncos kept picking up first downs as time kept melting away, and a field goal in the closing seconds sealed their 17-9 victory.
Doomed the Chiefs to their eighth straight loss, too.
The late-game decision by Crennel was just one example of a conservative approach that still has not yielded a touchdown since Nov. 12, a span of 11-plus quarters and more than 173 minutes.
"I was considering going for it, but then I decided not to go for it and we punted the ball," Crennel said, before explaining why: "The fact that it ended up being fourth-and-6 (at the Denver 47), and we still had the time on the clock to go out there and make the stop."
Crennel also elected to kick a field goal in the first quarter, when they were leading 3-0 and facing fourth-and-2 at the Denver 4. His reasoning was that it was best to get certain points, even though the Broncos had scored at least 30 in five straight games.
They didn't need nearly that many to overcome Ryan Succop's three field goals.
Manning threw for 285 yards with touchdown strikes to Jacob Tamme and Demaryius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno added 85 yards rushing for the AFC West-leading Broncos (8-3), who won their sixth straight despite putting Willis McGahee on injured reserve this week with a knee injury.
"I've got to tip my hat to Knowshon Moreno," Manning said. "He stepped up today and did a heck of a job. Really an impressive effort by him."
Jamaal Charles had 107 yards rushing for the Chiefs (1-10), but Brady Quinn was just 13 of 25 for 126 yards and an interception in place of benched starter Matt Cassel.
"We tried to get the ball out quick on some of the different pass plays, we tried to run the ball," Quinn said. "We were able to keep 18 on the bench for a good amount that we wanted to."
Manning, having one of his best seasons after missing all of last year with a neck injury, broke a tie with his boss and Broncos vice president John Elway with his 149th win as a starting quarterback. He trails only Brett Favre, who won 186 games during his career.
The Chiefs pursued the 36-year-old quarterback in the offseason, but never so much as received an opportunity to speak with him before Manning signed a five-year deal with Denver.
Now, the Broncos are flying high while the Chiefs are waiting to bottom out.
"Peyton Manning is a Hall of Famer," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "We played pretty good as a defense most of the game, but he made a few plays, one or two more than we'd like."
Kansas City actually established a lead for the third straight game, and seemed to be out-playing Denver early, going up 6-0 on Succop's two first-half field goals.
It was all wiped out by one Broncos touchdown drive.
Manning completed five straight passes before finding Tamme on third-and-goal from the Kansas City 7 with 18 seconds left in the half, giving Denver a 7-6 lead.
The Broncos' Matt Prater missed his second field-goal try of the game in the third quarter, and Succop's 49-yarder gave Kansas City its first second-half lead this season, but once again the field goal wound up getting trumped by a touchdown.
Manning, who went over 3,000 yards passing earlier in the game, rode the legs of Moreno into Chiefs territory, and that's when he lobbed a pass over nickelback Jalil Brown and into the hands of Thomas for the go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter.
The Chiefs twice had chances to overcome the 14-9 deficit late in the fourth quarter, but they failed to move the ball after taking over at their own 37, and then after getting it back, punted on fourth-and-6 at the Broncos 47 after a series of penalties ruined the drive.
Denver tacked on a field goal by Prater in the closing seconds, and after Jacksonville held on to beat Tennessee, the Chiefs were left as the league's only one-win team.
"We're frustrated every week. Every time we get a loss, it's frustrating," Charles said. "I don't know when it's going to stop, but hopefully we can did deep down in our souls and find a way to get out of this."
NOTES: Chiefs WR Dexter McCluster (head/neck) and S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) left the game with injuries. ... Kansas City was 3 for 14 on third downs. ... Chiefs LB Justin Houston had two sacks. ... Broncos LB Von Miller had his 14th sack of the season.
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