KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After chasing them for the last six seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs finally harpooned their white whale in the AFC West Sunday night with a 33-10 victory over the Denver Broncos at a soggy and windy Arrowhead Stadium.
The 11-4 Chiefs are headed to the playoffs and the 8-7 defending Super Bowl champion Broncos are not. Kansas City's victory ended a five-season streak where Denver won the division. It was the Chiefs' second decision over the Broncos this year, their first season sweep in 16 seasons. While the first game this season between the teams went 75 minutes before the Chiefs won in overtime, this Christmas night game was all but over by the end of the first quarter when K.C. scored three offensive touchdowns in the game's first 13 minutes.
In his fourth year with the team, quarterback Alex Smith was asked if he feels like the Chiefs were finally able to dispatch their No. 1 AFC West nemesis with the victory.
"Yes and no," said Smith, who directed the Chiefs offense to 484 yards, the highest total the highly acclaimed Denver defense has allowed this season. "We are behind in the division right now, that's the thing. We aren't hanging a banner up. Obviously they are the defending world champions and a really good football team and to get them twice is really tough. That's a tall task.
"But until you hang one of those banners, you are not really over it."
The Chiefs may still be able to claim first place in the AFC West. If they can beat San Diego in the final regular-season game combined with a Denver victory over Oakland next Sunday, the Chiefs will finish 12-4 as will the Raiders. But the Chiefs have the tiebreaker edge with their two victories over Oakland this season.
"Making the playoffs is what we got done today," said veteran outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who is headed to the postseason for the third time in the four years with Andy Reid as the Chiefs head coach. "But we aren't giving up anything. We are going to play our next game and hope the Broncos can rebound against the Raiders."
Kansas City relied on its Pro Bowl offensive playmakers and a defense that has been on a roller-coaster ride for the last two months for the victory. Tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill torched the Denver defense for a pair of early touchdowns, giving the Chiefs a lead they never relinquished. Hill scored on a 70-yard running play and Kelce produced an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Smith.
Kelce and Hill combined for 255 offensive yards on 17 touches, as the Kansas City offense rang up 484 yards against a Denver defense that had not allowed that type of opponent production since October 2013.
"We haven't given up that type of ball movement in a while," said Denver coach Gary Kubiak of his defense. "Disappointed there, but we didn't play very good in any phase of the game. We didn't play well as a team."
Even a defensive guy got into the Chiefs offensive production as defensive tackle Dontari Poe came into the game in a goal-line situation and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Demetrius Harris for the final points of the game.
Kansas City fielded the best defense of the night, as they forced a pair of Denver fumbles and grabbed a last-play interception, giving up only one touchdown and allowing the Broncos just 246 offensive yards.
"They played well; my hat's off to them," said Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian. "It's obviously frustrating that we didn't play better. It stinks, there's no other way to put it. We knew we had to win the next two to have a chance (for the playoffs) and we didn't get it done."
The Chiefs offense came out fast and furious. On its first possession, Kansas City ran seven plays with four in the hands of the speedy rookie Hill and the team's leading receiver in Kelce. They gained 45 yards and helped set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Smith. With the PAT, it was an early 7-0 Kansas City lead.
On their next opportunity with the ball, the Chiefs lined Hill up in the backfield, where he took a handoff from Smith, went wide left and ran for a 70-yard touchdown. There were big blocks on the play by Kelce, tight end James O'Shaughnessy and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 14-0 early lead.
But the Denver defense helped cut the margin in half. Smith was hit by the Broncos pass rush as he threw the ball, and the pass hung in the air and was intercepted by safety Justin Simmons, who returned it 38 yards to the Kansas City 6-yard line. Two plays later, running back Justin Forsett found the end zone on a 1-yard run.
Yet again, the stars of the Chiefs offense answered back, as Smith threw a wide screen right to Kelce and with a three-blocker escort, the tight end went 80 yards for Kansas City's third touchdown and a 21-7 lead as the first quarter came to an end.
Until the defensive tackle's touchdown pass with less than two minutes to play, that was all the scoring for either offense. Kickers Cairo Santos (27 and 39 yards) for the Chiefs and Brandon McManus (52) for the Broncos provided the other scores.
About an hour before the game kicked off, the Chiefs had a spot in the playoffs secured courtesy of Pittsburgh's 31-27 victory over Baltimore earlier in the evening. But they still enjoyed putting their own mark on the outcome.
"We got a Christmas present," said Reid. "I give our guy's credit for playing hard even though they knew they were in the playoffs. That's not an easy thing to do. But, they played very aggressively."
The victory gave the Chiefs a season sweep of the Broncos for the first time since the 2000 season.
Kansas City's slot in the AFC bracket for the playoffs can be either second, fifth or sixth depending on the final results from next week's closing schedule.
Denver is now 3-14 playing at Arrowhead Stadium in the month of December, but it was the Broncos' first defeat in Kansas City since the 2010 season.
The last time Denver gave up 21 points or more in a quarter was 43 regular and postseason games ago, when New England put up 24 points in the second quarter of a Nov. 2, 2014 game against the Broncos.