Crazy Fumble Return Fuels Kansas City Chiefs' Much Needed Win Over Denver

Patrick Mahomes didn't need a miraculous comeback for the Kansas City Chiefs in their regular season finale on Saturday night. His defense did it for him.

The Chiefs forced a fumble and got an 86-yard scoop and score to put away the Denver Broncos, 28-24, at Empower Field in Denver.

Kansas City Chiefs Nick Bolton
Melvin Gordon #25 of the Denver Broncos fumbles the ball during the fourth quarter recovered by Nick Bolton #54 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field At Mile High on January 08, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Chiefs currently hold the AFC's best regular season record at 12-5, and a Tennessee Titans (11-5) loss on Sunday will guarantee the Chiefs the AFC's top seed and the only first-round bye. A Titans win at Houston puts Kansas City as the conference's No. 2 seed and hosting a wild card playoff game next weekend.

Kansas City scored the first touchdown of the game, but the Chiefs found themselves playing from behind until the fourth quarter, when a big defensive play happened.

The Broncos, who led 21-20 at the time, had driven deep into Chiefs territory and faced a 2nd-and-2 at the Chiefs' 9-yard line. Chiefs linebacker Melvin Ingram burst through the line and hit Broncos running back Melvin Gordon in the backfield, jarring the ball loose for a fumble. Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton picked up the loose ball and rumbled 86 yards unscathed for the go-ahead touchdown. A successful two-point conversion gave Kansas City a 28-21 lead.

Denver got the ball back and worked its way downfield, but opted to kick a field goal with 4:37 remaining, putting Mahomes and the Chiefs in a 4-minute offense.

Kansas City ran out the clock with a series of first downs, and the Chiefs lock down at least the No. 2 spot in the AFC. Now, they hope for the Titans to lose to the Houston Texans for a second time this season.

The Chiefs forced a Denver punt on the first possession of the game, and Mahomes led Kansas City on a 17-play, 91-yard drive that chewed 7:49 of clock to take a 7-0 lead. Denver responded with a 12-play drive, capped by quarterback Drew Lock's 5-yard scramble to knot the game at 7-7.

Lock gave the home Broncos a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after he scrambled 23 yards for another score. The Broncos took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

The Chiefs used another long, clock-eating drive to start the third quarter and take a 17-14 lead. Denver responded with a 5-play, 75-yard drive capped by Gordon's 47-yard romp into the end zone for a 21-17 Broncos lead.

Then, just as the Broncos got the ball back and marched the field looking to extend their lead, the Chiefs came up big on defense.

Mahomes finished the game 27-of-44 with 270 yards and two passing touchdowns with no interceptions. He was also Kansas City's leading rusher with 54 yards on nine carries. The Chiefs did not have a rushing touchdown.