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DENVER – The injury-plagued Kansas City Chiefs did everything they were supposed to do against Peyton Manning and his Broncos.
Well, except that one thing — scoring.
The Chiefs lost two more key starters and were still only 2 yards away from tying the game late in the fourth quarter.
Alex Smith's pass with 15 seconds remaining was deflected at the line of scrimmage as the Denver Broncos held on for a 24-17 win on Sunday.
"We're not, by any means, in the business of moral victories, we don't even think that way, but there was great effort there," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "That can take you a long way. A game like this, we can learn from this."
For a second straight week, the Chiefs were hit hard by injuries; they lost All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles on the opening drive and safety Eric Berry in the second quarter to sprained ankles. Both will have X-rays on Monday.
Still, thanks to an offense that held the ball for more than 36 minutes, which kept Manning on the bench, they were on Denver's doorstep with a chance to tie late in the game, despite being 12½-point underdogs.
"We faced a great team, stood in there," said Knile Davis, who filled in for Charles and had two TDs. "We could've won it, should've won it."
In this loss, Kansas City (0-2) may have just provided the rest of the league with a blueprint for the Broncos (2-0) — keep the ball out of Manning's hands.
Although, that sort of goes without saying. But the Chiefs dominated time of possession (holding the ball for nearly 13 more minutes) and didn't let No. 18 settle into his customary rhythm in the second half. Manning threw for just 51 yards after halftime.
The only trouble was Kansas City kept sputtering inside the red zone, going 1 for 3 in the second half.
The Chiefs' final drive almost ended early — twice.
But Aqib Talib's interception for a score was negated by Quanterus Smith jumping offsides.
Later, Nate Irving's fumble recovery following DeMarcus Ware's sack of Smith was ruled an incomplete pass after a review.
Kansas City nearly capitalized, too, driving inside the 10 with 1:45 remaining. On fourth down, though, Smith tried to hit Dwayne Bowe over the middle but his pass was deflected by Terrance Knighton.
"I was trying to give him a chance," said Smith, who finished 26 of 42 for 255 yards.
After the game, Davis kept saying of the fourth-and-goal play, "should've scored" over and over.
A common second-half theme for Kansas City.
Trailing 21-10 at halftime, the Chiefs took the second-half kick and drove the ball down to the 4-yard line. Then, they moved backward with a holding call and a sack. Their time-consuming 19-play, 10-minute drive yielded no points, though, as Cairo Santos pushed a 37-yard field goal to the right.
Santos beat out veteran kicker Ryan Succop for the job in camp this summer. Asked if he regretted the decision, given that Santos has missed two field goals, Reid simply said, "No, don't.
"When he settles down, he kicks it fine," Reid added. "He's got to do that."
Charles was hurt on the team's first drive when he turned his ankle being brought down by a host of Broncos. Berry was examined on the sideline by the medical staff late in the second quarter, before taking the tape off his ankle and heading toward the locker room.
Kansas City already was without Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive tackle Mike DeVito after both ruptured their right Achilles tendons last weekend against Tennessee, ending their seasons. In the same game, right tackle Jeff Allen hurt his right elbow and had season-ending surgery Friday.
Reid vowed to get Charles more involved in the offense a week after giving him just seven carries. He had two carries for 4 yards and a catch for 8 more before hobbling off the field.
That significantly altered the Chiefs' game plan.
"He's a great player and you do have a number of plays in for him because of that," Reid said. "There are some things we can definitely learn from this game and be a better football team."
NOTES: The Chiefs were 11 of 16 on third downs. ... Of Manning's six TD passes this season, five have gone to a tight end. ... The Chiefs outgained Denver 380-325. ... Former Broncos DL Kevin Vickerson on his return to Denver: "A little bit different. ... Football don't change — players do."
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