DENVER – Peyton Manning threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Julius Thomas, rookie Montee Ball scored from a yard out and the Denver Broncos had a 17-10 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs at halftime Sunday night.
The Chiefs (9-0) and the Broncos (8-1) have a .944 winning percentage — the best combined record of two opponents this deep into the season since the NFL merger in 1970.
Alex Smith threw a 6-yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe early in the second quarter and later drove Kansas City to the 1, only to have Jamaal Charles stopped by linebacker Steven Johnson to set up a 20-yard field goal from Ryan Succop.
Denver marched down the field late in the first half, but Matt Prater's 52-yard field goal sailed wide left. It was Prater's first miss of the season.
The Chiefs had excellent field position with 32 seconds left and moved in range for a possible long field goal, before Smith was sacked by Shaun Phillips.
The Broncos were later called for a holding penalty with no time remaining, giving Kansas City one last play before the half. The Chiefs sent Succop out for a possible NFL record 64-yard attempt, before changing their mind and bringing back the offense. Smith ran for 25 yards to end the half.
The opportunistic Kansas City defense recovered a fumble midway through the first quarter, with Derrick Johnson scooping it up and rumbling toward the end zone only to be tackled by Manning deep in Denver territory.
But on the next play, Anthony Sherman fumbled the ball right back as Quentin Jammer pounced on it. Denver quickly capitalized, as Demaryius Thomas hauled in a 70-yard pass from Manning to set up tight end Julius Thomas' short TD catch. It was Thomas' team-leading 10th score this season.
Manning had his tender ankles heavily taped. He also wore gloves on both hands with the temperature in the low 40s.
The weather didn't seem to bother Manning as he guided the Broncos into field-goal range after the Chiefs punted on their opening drive. Matt Prater connected on a 54-yarder.
Manning was 14 of 21 for 202 yards at halftime. Demaryius Thomas had four catches for 116 yards.
A big question mark coming into the game was the condition of Manning's ankle after he took a low hit late in a win at San Diego last week. An MRI showed no new damage to Manning's right ankle and interim head coach Jack Del Rio has been saying all week that Manning would be fine. Del Rio is filling in for John Fox, who's resting following heart surgery.
The Chiefs tried to get receiver Dwayne Bowe involved early, throwing a pass his direction on the second play from scrimmage. Bowe was arrested last weekend during the team's bye and charged with speeding and possession of marijuana. Coach Andy Reid didn't really say much on the matter other than the standout receiver would play and start.
Bowe came up big in the second quarter, catching a pass in the end zone between two Denver defensive backs. He has four catches for 57 yards.
The game brought some celebrities as golfer Tiger Woods stood on the sideline with girlfriend and four-time overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn. Several Broncos players approached Woods to chat, including punter Britton Colquitt and Champ Bailey, who's out for the game with a left foot injury.
Woods also spent some time before the game with Broncos boss John Elway, a fellow Stanford alum.