DENVER -- Between quarterback Peyton Manning's quick release and just enough blocking by the Denver Broncos' front line, the Kansas City Chiefs' fierce pass rush was held at bay -- and their undefeated record was ended.
Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball scored two touchdowns, and Denver handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, 27-17 Sunday night in a matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL.
"The protection was great," Manning said. "The running game was solid. We had a good mix. The guys up front did a great job and answered the bell. They had a great challenge against an excellent defense and an excellent pass rush. Those guys did an outstanding job, and it was critical to the game tonight."
Manning, playing with a protective wrap around his sore right ankle and wearing gloves on his hands to ward off the cold, threw his 34th touchdown pass of the season as Denver (9-1) moved into a tie atop the AFC West with Kansas City (9-1).
The Chiefs became the last team in the league to take a loss this season.
"We played a good football team and they got us today," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "We had opportunities to score off the (defensive) stops that we made. We didn't follow up offensively. We didn't take full advantage of that."
The game marked a rare late-season showdown between teams with the best records in the AFC. The combined winning percentages of the Chiefs and Broncos going into the contest (.944) was the highest between opponents this late in the year since Dec. 7, 1969, when the Minnesota Vikings (10-1) played the Los Angeles Rams (11-0), with the Vikings coming out on top 20-13.
"To control your own destiny, you have to win these division games," Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker said. "They were the No. 1 team, and we were able to find a way to win. Now, we control the division, and I think that's our biggest mindset, week in, week out, we got to get better."
The Broncos' top-scoring offense, though slowed, still finished with the most points this season against the Chiefs, who came in with the NFL's stingiest defense. Moreover, the Chiefs, who entered with a league-high 36 sacks, were unable to get to Manning all night.
"We knew this was going to be a game where you had to play well in the trenches," said Jack Del Rio, the Broncos' interim head coach. "We talked all week about feeling like we've done a pretty good job all year of keeping our quarterback from being hit and being hit very often. I thought they responded well."
Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith completed 21 of 45 for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a 10-yarder to tight end Anthony Fasano with 4:56 remaining that was upheld on replay review.
Officials initially ruled Fasano was out of bounds, but the replay showed he managed to get both feet down before falling beyond the back line of the end zone.
After a punt, the Chiefs got the ball back with 3 1/2 minutes left and managed to get the Broncos' 45, but Smith's fourth-down pass fell incomplete. The Chiefs got the ball back one more time, with 55 seconds remaining, but ran out of time without making any headway against the Broncos' defense.
"To come here and come up short hurts and stings," Smith said. "It's good in some ways. We have to find a way to deal with it. How many teams have ever gone undefeated in the history of football? We have to find a way to get better. ... These games keep getting bigger."
Up by a touchdown at the break, the Broncos took a 24-10 lead on Ball's second touchdown run, an 8-yarder, with 2:22 remaining in the third quarter.
Denver running back Knowshon Moreno (27 carries, 79 yards) got the drive going with an 11-yard gain on a draw, and Manning found Decker all alone coming across the middle for a 33-yard completion to the Chiefs' 14-yard line.
A swing pass to Ball advanced the Broncos to the 8, and Ball swept around right end on the next play for the score.
Manning put together another scoring drive ending in Matt Prater's second field goal, a 36-yarder, with 7:06 left to play.
Denver took a 17-10 halftime lead, matching the most points scored against the Chiefs this season.
The Broncos went up 10-0, marking the first time the Chiefs fell behind by double digits in a game this year, behind Prater's 54-yard field goal and Manning's 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Julius Thomas.
A 70-yard completion to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (five receptions, 121 yards) set up the Broncos' first touchdown after the teams swapped turnovers.
Manning bobbled a handoff to Ball that was recovered at the Broncos' 18-yard line by linebacker Derrick Johnson. However, the Chiefs gave it back on the next play when fullback Anthony Sherman caught a swing pass and fumbled on a hit by linebacker Danny Trevathan. Cornerback Quentin Jammer recovered for the Broncos at their 16-yard line.
The Chiefs, benefiting from three defensive penalties, including a taunting call on Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho that gave Kansas City a first-and-goal at the 6, finished the drive with a 6-yard scoring pass from Smith to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
The Broncos added a 1-yard touchdown run by Ball to go up 17-7. With 2:55 left in the second quarter, the Chiefs settled for a 20-yard field goal by Ryan Succop after linebacker Steve Johnson stuffed running back Jamaal Charles on a third-and-goal play from the 1.
NOTES: Denver WR Wes Welker was being evaluated for a possible concussion. He finished with eight catches for 72 yards. ... The Broncos and Chiefs meet again at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 1. ... Golfer Tiger Woods and skier Lindsey Vonn watched pregame warm-ups from the sideline and exchanged pleasantries with the Broncos' head of football operations, John Elway. ... Broncos PK Matt Prater missed wide left from 52 yards out just before halftime after connecting on his first 13 field-goal tries of the season. He was the last kicker in the league to register a miss. ... Chiefs DE Mike DeVito left the game in the first quarter with a left knee injury. ... QB Peyton Manning has at least one touchdown pass in 33 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league. ... Broncos FS Rahim Moore left the game in the second quarter with a lower-leg injury. ... Chiefs rookie OT Eric Fisher, the top pick in the draft, suffered a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter and did not return. He is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.