DENVER -- The Denver Broncos' offensive game plan, and perhaps their season, dissolved into a "what now?" mess of offensive line play on Thursday night, as quarterback Joe Flacco was unable to escape the Kansas City Chiefs during a 30-6 loss.
The Chiefs had six sacks in the first half and finished with nine in the game -- the most against the Broncos since 1983, or as it is known in these parts, John Elway's rookie season. Kansas City's oft-criticized defense was more than enough to get an all-too-easy win even after watching quarterback Patrick Mahomes limp to the locker room with a right knee injury in the first half. He would not return.
The loss drops the once-again-reeling Broncos to 2-5 with significant questions about what, if anything, they can do to fix the troubles up front in any attempt to salvage the season.
Troubling trend: The Chiefs (5-2) came into Thursday's game 30th in the league in run defense, 27th in total defense and 24th in sacks and yet the Broncos couldn't run the ball effectively, couldn't put drives together and simply didn't protect Flacco at any point against that same defense. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James hasn't played since leaving the season opener with a knee injury -- he had practiced the past two weeks on a limited basis -- and the Broncos consistently allowed free rushers to crowd the front porch on Flacco.
Toss in three key drops from rookie tight end Noah Fant, three holding penalties on Garett Bolles, a run game mired in neutral, and the recipe for the most disjointed performance of the season on offense was in place.
Biggest hole in game plan: There is something to be said for risk-taking, there is something to be said for believing in your guys and there is something to be said for shaking things up with something unexpected.
And then there is going for two on the first touchdown of the game after you've already made the extra point. The Chiefs were penalized for encroachment on the play and Phillip Lindsay couldn't pound it in for the conversion. Then there was the fake punt that never appeared to have any chance of working on a fourth-and-4 on the first play of the second quarter. All in all, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, with a backup quarterback and perhaps as many injuries to key players across the depth chart as the Broncos, easily won the strategic battle with Vic Fangio.
QB breakdown: Flacco was certainly under siege, but it's not all on the quarterback no matter how long he does or doesn't hold the ball. The Broncos never adjusted. There was no effective screen game or an attempt to pick up the pace with shorter drops and shorter throws to offset the Chiefs' onslaught.
Pivotal play: Mahomes left the game with just under 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Chiefs were driving and settled for a field goal that would give them a 13-6 lead with 8 minutes, 1 second remaining until halftime.