By DAVE SKRETTA
(KANSAS CITY, Mo., AP) — Two weeks later and in a different venue, the outcome was pretty much the same.
Peyton Manning was unfazed by the once-fearsome Kansas City pass rush, and the Denver Broncos’ offense was humming in a victory over the Chiefs that gave them control of the AFC West.
Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, four of them to Eric Decker, in the 35-28 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. It came on the heels of Manning’s big game just three weeks ago, when the Broncos dealt the Chiefs their first loss of the season at Mile High Stadium.
“We played them two weeks ago in a close game, a tough game,” Manning said. “We knew we’d get their best shot. They came out hot and made some plays early and we did a good job of persevering.”
Much better job than the Chiefs.
Kansas City squandered a 21-7 lead by allowing 28 unanswered points, yet still had a chance in the final minutes of the game. Jamaal Charles ran for a touchdown with 6:32 left to get within a touchdown, and then the Chiefs got the ball back when Denver was forced to punt.
Three long passes moved the Chiefs downfield, but Alex Smith’s pass to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone on fourth-and-4 with 1:45 left fell incomplete, allowing the Broncos to run out the clock.
“Hard-fought game,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Two good football teams playing each other, and it came right down to the end.”
Decker had eight catches for a career-high 174 yards for the Broncos (10-2), who moved a game clear of the Chiefs (9-3) in the division. Montee Ball added 117 yards rushing.
With four games left, Denver also holds the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over Kansas City in the past three weeks. The Broncos have the AFC’s best record.
“It was a gritty, gritty effort on the road,” said interim coach Jack Del Rio, who led the Broncos to a 3-1 record while coach John Fox was recovering from heart surgery.
Fox is due to return to the team on Monday.
“We went through a tough stretch. We missed him,” Del Rio said, “and it’ll be great to have him back. As a football team, we took care of our business here and put ourselves in control.”
As the Broncos and Chiefs head toward the playoffs — where they might meet again — here are five things that stood out from their second game of the season:
MANNING’S THE MAN: Manning has now thrown 41 touchdown passes this season, breaking his team record of 37 set last season. He also eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark for the 13th time. “He’s just a great quarterback,” Chiefs defensive back Quintin Demps said. “He just knows where to put the ball. The way he reads the defense is impeccable.”
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Charles ran for 93 yards and caught two passes for 27 yards to lead the Kansas City offense. Along the way, he became the fifth Chiefs player with 1,000 attempts in his career and the first with four 1,000-yard seasons. “I want to be one of the best that played in this organization,” Charles said. “Not just in my organization but in my class, and in the NFL. It’s an honor to go over 1,000 yards. But we’ve got more football and I hope I can go out there and break more records and make history.”
INJURY BUG: The Broncos were missing defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (hip fracture), defensive end Derek Wolfe (illness), cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (shoulder) and tight end Julius Thomas (knee). The Chiefs were playing without linebacker Justin Houston (elbow), and then lost left tackle Brandon Albert (knee) and tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) during the game.
DROPPED PASSES: The Chiefs were plagued by dropped passes, some of which would have resulted in some big gains. Donnie Avery was the culprit on several, but he wasn’t alone. Fasano dropped a long pass on the play on which he sustained his concussion. “It’s my job to keep throwing them,” Smith said. “I certainly missed my fair share as well. That’s the nature of the passing game. You’re striving for perfection. You’d like to hit every one, but it’s not going to happen.”
BALL ROLLING: Ball helped carry the load for Knowshon Moreno, who played despite an ankle injury sustained last week in New England. It was the first time that Ball had run for more than 100 yards in a game. “For me, it was show-up-or-shut-up time,” Ball said. “Sit on the bench and shut up if I don’t make plays for my teammates. I was just really decisive today.”