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Five things that stood out about the Kansas City Chiefs’ win against Denver Broncos

On the final day of the NFL trade deadline, the Chiefs sought to improve their defensive front, a search that eventually led them to Melvin Ingram. A conference rival’s willingness to oblige made you wonder just how much he had left.

A lot, it turns out.

As his presence has been an oft-reference inside the Chiefs’ facility, Ingram made his biggest play of the season. Heck, maybe the Chiefs’ biggest play of the season.

Ingram forced a fumble that Nick Bolton returned 86 yards for a touchdown, the go-ahead score in a Chiefs 28-24 win in Denver on Saturday.

The fourth-quarter play saved an otherwise frustrating evening.

And it kept the No. 1 seed in play.

The Chiefs currently sit at No. 2 in the AFC — they cannot fall — but they can move to No. 1 if the Titans lose to the Texans on Sunday.

We’ve discussed Ingram. Here are five more observations from immediately after the regular season finale in Denver:

1. Playoff prep

The shell defensive scheme received all its attention after the Super Bowl, but Vic Fangio’s defense has been giving Patrick Mahomes these looks for awhile.

Deep safeties.

No blitzes.

The strategy has been the overarching theme of the Chiefs season — and what they can expect to see in the playoffs. So what better preparation?

Patrick Mahomes sidestepped some mitigating circumstances — without his top receiver, on a disastrous field — to throw for 269 yards and two touchdowns against a team that gave him fits earlier this year.

Tyreek Hill was limited with a heel injury, but Mecole Hardman responded to an increased workload with the best outing of his career. Hardman caught eight passes for a career-best 103 yards, and he did the bulk of his work after the catch.

The Broncos did not blitz once in Mahomes’ 30 drop backs in the first half. He’ll see some similar looks this postseason.

2. Worry about the defense?

The Chiefs migrated nearly two months without allowing an opponent to top 17 points — once the largest such streak in the NFL. No defense was playing better.

But if you needed a reminder of how quickly things can change in this league, the Chiefs defense is here for yet another exhibit.

Yes, they made the game’s biggest play between the Ingram forced fumble and Bolton scoop and score. But otherwise? Meh.

And what’s most worrisome is the manner in which they are giving up chunks of yards. A week ago, they were burned in the passing game for nearly 450 yards. On Saturday, they were toasted in the running game. The Broncos rushed for 191 yards, 6.8 per carry.

If you’re a believer in momentum — and there’s disagreement about its significance in the game — the Chiefs defense has lost some of what it built over the middle of the year.

3. The field conditions

The Chiefs were fighting for playoff seeding — potentially the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Broncos were playing under the speculation that it could be Vic Fangio’s last game a their head coach.

And yet an unlikely intruder butted its way into the storylines.

The field.

The game looked as though it was played on ice, example after example of players struggling to keep their footing — none more obvious that kicker Harrison Butker face-planting on a kickoff. Receivers slipped on routes. Melvin Ingram couldn’t keep his balance trying to rush off the edge. Joe Thuney got flagged for holding, necessitated after he slipped on his drop. Melvin Gordon and Darrel Williams both slipped while approaching the line of scrimmage for a handoff.

It was a mess, and one that shouldn’t occur on an NFL field.

4. Opening script

The Chiefs keep scoring on opening drives.

And we’ll keep talking about it — particularly when they’re this well-executed.

The Chiefs traveled 91 yards on 17 plays in their initial possession before Patrick Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce on a drag route for a 3-yard touchdown.

Is there a possession more indicative of the Chiefs’ new offensive requirements? They were methodical, not reliant on the deep ball or big play. Their longest snap covered all of 17 yards. They were 4 of 4 on third downs.

With the score, by the way, the Chiefs finished the regular season with the 68 points on opening drives, the most in the NFL.

5. Drew Lock

The most important question facing the Broncos this offseason is who will play quarterback for them in 2022.

Will it be Lee’s Summit High and Mizzou graduate Drew Lock? Or will they look elsewhere?

The fact that Teddy Bridgewater beat out Lock for the job could telegraph their thinking, but a string of starts late in the season has offered Lock a chance to change their minds.

He completed only 12 of 24 passes, though, after missing on his first five throws, and before a roughing the punter penalty, the offense heard a few boos.

His real work came with his legs. Lock rushed for two touchdowns, including a career-high 23-yard scramble.

That, however, is unlikely to play much of a factor in the Broncos’ decision this spring.

Lock enters final year of his contract in 2022.

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