Denver Broncos Eliminated from Playoff Contention in 33-10 Loss to Kansas City Chiefs

Merry Christmas, the season is over.

When I was a kid, I associated Christmas with an older, rotund man draped in all red. After tonight, I still do, but now it's Andy Reid instead of Santa Claus.

Life comes at you fast. The Denver Broncos started 2016 with four straight wins, hoping it would culminate in another Super Bowl title. Now, to close it out, they have lost three straight, the most recent a 33-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas night.

The day started well in terms of Denver's playoff chances--the Pittsburgh Steelers drove late to beat the Baltimore Ravens, opening the door for the Broncos to sneak their way back into the picture. It was not to be.

Like they have done on a number of occasions this season, the Broncos dug themselves a major hole in the first quarter. The Chiefs marched their way down the field for touchdowns three separate times in the first quarter.

The first drive was actually a sustained drive that involved multiple plays, mixing the pass and the run. Alex Smith tossed the ball to Tyreek Hill for 28, Spencer Ware bulldozed his way for 18 yards on the ground, and then Smith finally capped it off with a 10-yard touchdown gallop off the left end.

The next drive took just four plays, and quickly Point A turned into Point B when Hill took a sweep off the left tackle, cut straight up the field, and dashed 70 yards to pay dirt. A Travis Kelce block on Darian Stewart cleared the way for Hill to take it the distance. 

The third was similar, but this time it lasted just one play--and 80 yards. Smith fired a quick screen to the right to Kelce, who followed a Jeremy Maclin block and weaved his way down the length of the field in just one play. No defense to be seen.

In the meantime, the Broncos were able to find the end zone once. A Justin Simmons pick and return for 38 yards set up the Broncos offense at the 6, and two plays later, Justin Forsett punched the ball in from a yard out.

In the second quarter, the game remained fairly stagnant aside from one field goal-producing drive from the Broncos. A quick pass to Jeff Heuerman for 16 and a well-executed screen to Devontae Booker moved the Broncos into Chiefs' territory. Brandon McManus booted an impressive field goal from 52 yards out in the rain and cut the deficit to 21-10.

They had another chance for a field goal at the end of the half, but a questionable fake went haywire when Riley Dixon flipped the ball to McManus, who ran for five yards on 4th-and-10. An odd choice.

And that's all she wrote for the Broncos offense in this one. At some point, the coaches decided to abandon the running game for another week and put the ball in the hands of their young quarterback.

Things didn't go well for Trevor, to say the least. He finished the game 17-for-43 with 183 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick on the last play of the game. Obviously, this is less than ideal. And it will be the root of plenty of hot takes this week.

It's disturbing, however, that the coaches were so quick to stop feeding Booker after he looked quick, decisive, and powerful in the first half. He carried the ball just five times for 27 yards. When your back is averaging over five per carry, it's insane not to go with the hot hand.

The Broncos looked like they were playing in quicksand for the majority of the second half. That's really the only way to put it. As hard as they struggled and tried to move the ball, nothing was happening and there was no progress to be made.

On defense, the team let up a couple field goals from Cairo Santos before letting the Chiefs score a touchdown on a bizarre direct snap to Dontari Poe where Poe jump-passed and hit Demetrius Harris. It was a weird thing to do up 17 late in the fourth quarter, but no one has ever accused Andy Reid of being a normal dude.

Aside from a few big chunks from Hill, the Broncos real weakness on defense was covering Kelce. He ended up snagging 11 passes for 160 yards, half of which came on the long touchdown in the first quarter. The safeties and linebackers couldn't keep up with him on crossing and slant routes, and he feasted over the middle as a result.

There's not much to say after this one. Denver's season is officially over, and all they'll be doing next week is playing third wheel in the Chiefs-Raiders fight for first place in the AFC West.

It's a tough break to follow up a championship season by missing the tournament altogether. But for better or worse, that's the NFL. Players cash in during free agency elsewhere while marquee players hang 'em up after riding off into the sunset. The Broncos were left trying to make it work with what was left.

After next week, there will always be next year.

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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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