DENVER (AP) — It took the Denver Broncos three tries to put away the Kansas City Chiefs.
Terrance Knighton batted away Alex Smith’s fourth-and-goal pass to Dwayne Bowe with 15 seconds left, preserving the Broncos’ 24-17 win over the scrappy Chiefs on Sunday.
The Broncos (2-0) thought they had sealed the win twice earlier on the drive.
Aqib Talib’s pick-6 was negated by Quanterus Smith’s hold. Then, Nate Irving’s fumble recovery following DeMarcus Ware’s sack and strip was ruled an incomplete pass after a review.
The Chiefs (0-2), without All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles for much of the game, converted 11 of 16 third-down opportunities overall. They just couldn’t capitalize in the biggest moments as the Broncos mustered two goal-line stands for the second straight week.
Peyton Manning was 21 of 26 for 242 yards and three TDs, but the Broncos had the ball for less than 10 minutes in the second half.
Smith was 26 of 42 for 255 yards, and Knile Davis ran 22 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City.
Charles left with an ankle injury in the first half, as did safety Eric Berry. These ailments came one week after three Chiefs suffered season-ending injuries.
Without Wes Welker for the second straight game and facing a defense that lost Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and tackle Mike DeVito to torn Achilles tendons last week, Manning targeted his tight ends again.
He found Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme for 4-yard TDs in the first half. Thomas became the first tight end in franchise history to catch four TD passes in the first two games.
Manning also threw a 12-yarder to Demaryius Thomas, who pinned the football on his left shoulder blade with cornerback Chris Owens draping him.
Emmanuel Sanders led the Broncos with eight catches for 108 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career.
The Broncos head to Seattle next week with a 2-0 record, if not exactly a head of steam, to face the Seahawks, who handed them a Super Bowl shellacking and then talked trash about them in the offseason.
Denver GM John Elway retooled his ground game and embarked on a defensive makeover after that 43-8 Super Bowl loss. Yet, the Broncos have been unable to salt away big leads or get off the field consistently.
They have come up big when backed up near their goal line, though.
Smith led the Chiefs on a 19-play drive that ate up 10 minutes coming out of halftime. They came up empty after getting to the Denver 4 on the strength of five third-down conversions.
An offensive holding call and linebacker Brandon Marshall’s sack dropped them back to the 19. Cairo Santos was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt.
Santos, who beat out incumbent veteran Ryan Succop with a strong leg in training camp, also failed to kick a touchback later in the game, and Bubba Caldwell returned it 54 yards, setting up a score.
The Chiefs got it right the next time, however, converting all three third downs on a 14-play drive that covered 90 yards and chewed up nearly eight minutes. The key was Anthony Fasano’s bobbling 22-yard grab to the Broncos 25.
Davis trotted in from 4 yards, pulling Kansas City to 21-17 with 7:11 left. He also had a 2-yard TD run in the first half.
Caldwell’s big kickoff return set up Brandon McManus’ 20-yard field goal that put Denver ahead by seven with 3:27 remaining.
Charles left after running just twice for 4 yards and catching one pass for 8 yards. Kansas City was trying to get him more involved after giving him just seven carries against Tennessee in the opener. Charles rushed for 1,287 yards a season ago, which was third most in the NFL.
Demaryius Thomas had an 80-yard TD catch negated when right tackle Chris Clark was whistled for being downfield.
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