KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Tim Tebow only completed two passes against the Chiefs on Sunday.
It turned out one was all he really needed.
The former Heisman Trophy winner connected with Eric Decker on a 56-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, helping the Denver Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-10 despite playing almost the entire game without their top two running backs.
Willis McGahee went down with a hamstring injury on the Broncos’ first offensive series, and Knowshon Moreno left later in the first quarter with a knee injury. That left journeyman Lance Ball to tote the ball 30 times for 96 yards, churning up a defense that had to know what was coming.
Since taking over for Kyle Orton, Tebow has led the ground-based Broncos (4-5) to victory in three of their last four games. They moved into a tie with Kansas City and San Diego behind the AFC West-leading Oakland Raiders (5-4), who beat the Chargers on Thursday night.
Denver coach John Fox scrapped a large chunk of his playbook when he made Tebow the starter, trying to cater to his deft ability to run the read-option. And despite losing his best two running backs, Fox stuck with the ground game, content to wear down the Kansas City defense.
Tebow finished 2 of 8 for 69 yards, but added 44 yards and a score on the ground.
Kansas City’s offense made those meager numbers look good.
Matt Cassel was 13 of 28 for 93 yards and a touchdown, and the Chiefs only managed 258 yards of total offense, a performance every bit as just as ugly as last week’s 31-1 loss to Miami.
The Chiefs’ four wins have been by 40 points; their five losses are by 120.
The Broncos made it clear that they weren’t going to throw the ball a whole lot on their first possession, when Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy called eight consecutive runs.
Moreno had the highlight carry when he hurdled the Chiefs’ Brandon Flowers on a 24-yard scamper, and Tebow finished off the drive when he went straight up the middle from 7 yards out, bouncing around like a pinball before plowing over the goal line to give Denver a 7-0 lead.
McGahee was hurt on the seventh play of the drive when he ran up the legs of one of his offensive linemen. He remained down until trainers could help him off the field.
He didn’t return to the game, though it didn’t matter the way Kansas City was executing.
The Chiefs’ offensive line was called for holding, a false start and gave up a sack to rookie Von Miller on their opening drive. Cassel was 4 of 9 for 29 yards and Kansas City had five first downs and 72 yards of total offense in the entire first half.
Rookie wide receiver Jon Baldwin tried to give Kansas City a spark when he hauled in an acrobatic 58-yard pass in the second quarter, reaching around safety Brian Dawkins to make the grab. Baldwin held onto the ball, still behind Dawkins’ back, as both players fell to the ground, but the play was called back because wide receiver Steve Breaston had lined up illegally.
Matt Prater’s 38-yard field goal gave Denver a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Tebow wound up missing all four of his pass attempts in the half, making Denver the first team to lead at the break without a completion since the Green Bay Packers led the Chicago Bears 14-0 on Oct. 31, 1994, according to STATS LLC. Brett Favre was 0 for 6 at halftime of that game.
Kansas City finally scored when Cassel hit Le’Ron McClain on a play-action pass from just outside the goal line midway through the third quarter. It was the first points scored by the Chiefs’ offense since 12:01 left in the fourth quarter against San Diego two weeks ago.
The Broncos snuffed out the comeback bid with 6:44 left in the game, when Decker ran past Flowers and safety Reshard Langford. Tebow hit him in stride for the touchdown.
Ryan Succop kicked a field goal with 7 seconds left for Kansas City, but the Broncos recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
Updated November 13, 2011