Game Balls: Chiefs vs. Broncos

The Kansas City Chiefs finished a disappointing season on a high note with a 7-3 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon.  The loss took put the Broncos on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs, but when the San Diego Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders, Denver won the AFC West and will play again next week.

Neither team played particularly well, but the Chiefs were able to do just enough to squeak by the Broncos thanks to another bad game from Denver QB Tim Tebow.  In the first meeting between these two teams, Tebow completed just two passes for 68 yards, however didn’t turn the ball over and had a running game that racked up 244 yards to lean on.

On Sunday, Tebow completed three times as many passes as the first game, but threw for eight less yards and turned the ball over twice.  The Broncos were able to rush for 216 yards, but only 16 of those were by Tebow, compared to 43 and a touchdown back in Week 10.

The Chiefs offense wasn’t a whole lot better.

Kyle Orton may have wanted to get revenge against the team that pushed him aside in favor of Tebow, but he only managed 180 yards and no touchdowns while connecting on 15-of-29 passes.  They rushed for 106 yards with Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones handling the bulk of the work after Jackie Battle was moved to injured reserve earlier in the week.

The way things fell this final week of the regular season, the Chiefs would have been the ones headed to the playoffs as the winners of the division if they had just not had two field goals blocked last week against the Raiders.  Instead of the playoffs, now we have to turn our attention to the draft in April — the Chiefs will have either the 11th or 12th pick — and more immediately who will be the next head coach.

Before the focus turns to the offseason, here are the three players from the season finale that are most deserving of a game ball.

Offense: Dexter McCluster

The Chiefs weren’t able to do much on offense Sunday, but McCluster was the one player that was able to move the football the entire game.  He finished as the team’s leading rusher with 61 yards on 12 carries along with his first career touchdown on the ground.  McCluster also caught three passes for 25 yards, including a 19-yard scamper.

15 touches is probably a little north of McCluster’s ideal number, but with a healthy Jamaal Charles and competent passing game, the type of plays he made Sunday are the ones he will be able to turn in weekly.

Defense: Justin Houston

Talk about making giant strides during your rookie season.  Houston started his pro career as one of the final rookies to make it to camp after a holdout and then took some time to catch up conditioning wise with the rest of his teammates.  After starting as a reserve, Houston quickly took over at starting outside linebacker opposite Tamba Hali and got better every single week.

The man that seemed to give Houston the biggest jolt was a man he saw plenty while playing at Georgia: Tim Tebow.  Houston starred in the first meeting between these two teams, stepping up to help stop the option and again came up big on Sunday.

Houston finished with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles — two for a loss — and recovered a Tebow fumble following a fantastic play from S Kendrick Lewis.  The linebacker looked comfortable all day against the Denver offense, giving the Chiefs a fantastic trio of linebackers, along with Pro Bowlers Hali and Derrick Johnson, going into next season.

Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt

Going on within the Chiefs-Broncos game was a heavyweight battle between Dustin and Britton Colquitt.  Both punters had fantastic games, seemingly pulling ahead of the other in the “Battle of the Colquitts” after each punt.

Dustin finished an up and down season on a very high note.  He punted eight times, put half of those inside the 20 and had a long of 58 (three yards longer than his brother’s long).

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