The Kansas City Chiefs went into Week 7 against the Denver Broncos Thursday night riding a two-game losing streak.
While the Chiefs ultimately came out on top, the story of the night was the serious knee injury reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes suffered.
That’s the biggest story from Kansas City’s 30-6 win. However, there were a number of winners and losers to look at. Here are some of them below.
Winner: Mecole Hardman
This rookie receiver from Georgia pretty much gifted his Chiefs 10 points early on after they fell down 6-0. It started with this 21-yard touchdown catch from Patrick Mahomes. That’s just a continuation of what we’ve seen from the two thus far this season.
Hardman then returned a punt 36 yards later in the first quarter, leading directly to a field goal and a 10-6 lead. While Hardman would end the night with just two catches for 28 yards on three targets, he made two huge plays when the Chiefs needed them.
Loser: Broncos offensive line
Starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James was inactive for the sixth consecutive game after suffering a knee injury in his regular-season Broncos debut back in Week 1. In his stead, third-year tackle Elijah Wilkinson struggled big time. He played an important role in the Chiefs getting to Joe Flacco for an absurd eight sacks. this is the very same Chiefs defense that recorded a total of 11 sacks over the first six games.
Flacco is a statue back there. That’s already known. It’s also why the Broncos have invested in their offensive line. In no way did this unit help Denver stay competitive Thursday night against what has been a bad Chiefs defense.
Winner: Courtland Sutton
This receiver has quickly turned into a top option for the Broncos. The second-year pass catcher entered Week 7 having caught 30 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns in six games. Sutton was one of the few bright spots for Denver Thursday evening.
He hauled in 6-of-8 targets for 87 yards from Flacco in the game. This included a key third-down catch in the first quarter that led directly to the Broncos’ only score of the game. Yeah, Sutton is going to be an absolute monster moving forward.
Loser: Phillip Lindsay
Some of this could have had to do with the performance of Denver’s offensive line. However, Lindsay shares in some of the blame for failing to take advantage of one of the worst run defenses in recent NFL history. Kansas City headed into Week 7 yielding 162 rushing yards per game at a clip of 5.2 yards per rush. For his part, Lindsay was averaging north of six yards per rush over the previous three games.
What seemed to be a mismatch turned into Linsday tallying a total of 36 yards on 11 rush attempts in his worst performance since Week 14 of his rookie season. Denver needs more from Lindsay to have a chance against good teams. That just didn’t happen Thursday night.
Winner: Anthony Hitchens
It’s not a secret that this veteran linebacker is important to the Chiefs’ success on defense. He missed last week’s game with a groin injury. That enabled Deshaun Watson and the Texans to sustain long drives in upsetting Kansas City at home.
Hitchens’ return to action Thursday was big. The included the team’s leading tackler from last season forcing a Joe Flacco fumble, which led directly to a Reggie Ragland scoop and score to put Kansas City up 20-6.
Hitchens finished the evening having recorded six tackles and two sacks while pressuring Flacco four times. It was a huge overall performance when Kansas City needed it the most.
Loser: John Elway
Denver’s general manager recently noted that no member of his team is on the trade block heading into to the deadline in less than two weeks. Winners of two consecutive games, that seemed to make sense. If the Broncos came out on top Thursday, they’d be only one game behind Kansas City.
This can now be thrown out the window following a humiliating effort against the Chiefs Thursday night. Now at 2-5 on the season, Denver is toast. It’s time for Elway and Co. to listen to offers for impending free agents Emmanuel Sanders and Chris Harris.
Unfortunately, the guy seems to be set in his ways. This could lead to Denver missing an opportunity to pick up valuable draft pick assets for players who don’t fit into its long-term future.
Winner: Alex Okafor
The Chiefs added Okafor to the mix in free agency as a way to help overcome the losses of Pro Bowl pass rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Having recorded no more than 4.5 sacks in each of the past four seasons, this seemed like questionable move. Through six games, Okafor had recorded just three quarterback hits and one sack.
Surprisingly, he came to play big time against Denver on Thursday. The veteran recorded three quarterback hits and two sacks in one of the best performances of his career. Kansas City will need this type of pass-rush production moving forward now that Mahomes is out.
Loser: NFL fans
We’ll know more about the extent of Patrick Mahomes’ injury later on Friday. What we do know is that he suffered a dislocated knee cap in Thursday’s win over the Broncos. It was a gruesome injury.
While we’re not going to conclude that a player who suffers an injury is a loser, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that fans are losers here. Mahomes has been the talk of the NFL since Week 1 of last season.
He’s put up some awe-inspiring plays and record numbers during a brilliant short career. Fans enjoy what he brings to the table on a weekly basis. He’s the LeBron James of the NFL. With Mahomes out for a while, fans are not going to know what to do with their Sundays. That sounds like hyperbole. But really, it isn’t.