Chiefs' Orton gets revenge on Broncos in 7-3 win
Monday, January 2, 2012
DENVER (AP) — The steady chorus of boos raining down on Kyle Orton went in one ear and out the other.
Maybe once, when he was the starter in Denver, the harsh reaction from the Broncos crowd would've rattled and riled Orton, especially with so many clamoring for Tim Tebow to take his job.
But this time, the noise hardly made a difference. Because this time, Orton had the final say.
Released from the Broncos in November, Orton returned as the quarterback of Kansas City and got his revenge, leading the Chiefs to a 7-3 win over Denver on Sunday.
In the end, though, only the Chiefs (7-9) went home empty-handed. The Broncos (8-8) backed into the playoffs despite the loss thanks to San Diego's 38-26 win over Oakland later on Sunday.
Even that couldn't dampen Orton's mood. Although he tried to treat it as just another game, this wasn't.
Not in the least.
"It was a little more (than just another game). You can't deny that," said Orton, who was steady all afternoon as he completed 15 of 29 passes for 180 yards. "It was a long year for me."
And now, thanks to his late-season success, maybe even a profitable one.
With this win, and by ending the Green Bay Packers' perfect season two weeks ago, Orton might just command starter's money and a long-term contract in free agency this offseason.
Who knows? It might even be back in Kansas City.
"I'm going to take a step away," Orton said. "I know they have a great quarterback in Matt Cassel. Matt's a good friend, he's a great teammate.
"I look at this as his team and we'll go from there."
Like with Orton, the future for interim coach Romeo Crennel's future remains uncertain. But he went a long way in his bid to retain the job, one that Crennel inherited after Todd Haley was fired following a 5-8 start.
Kansas City has responded under Crennel's leadership, finishing out the season 2-1. The campaigning on Crennel's behalf has already started.
"Oh man, we wanted to win for this guy so bad," defensive back Brandon Flowers said. "Having him as the defensive coordinator is one thing. But when the whole team can feed off of his spirit and energy, it's definitely a positive. I hope this guy can stay around. But upper management has a say in it."
Just like Denver's management had a say in releasing Orton.
And had the Broncos been eliminated from the postseason because of the right arm of Orton, Broncos boss John Elway's dangerous decision to release him would have gone down as one of the biggest mistakes in team history.
However, Elway and his team were let off the hook by Oakland's loss.
Orton even offered up his congratulations.
Then again, old friendships are hard to forget. He was the starter in Denver for 2½ years, but the fans never really warmed up to him. At first, it was because he wasn't Jay Cutler and later because he wasn't Tebow.
Orton got the last laugh. Yet when asked if this was the biggest win of his career, he quickly dismissed that notion.
"No, not at all," he said. "It was a good win for us as a team, as individuals and as an organization."
This win had less to do with Orton and more to do with the legs of Dexter McCluster, who bolted by the Denver defense for the lone TD of the game, a 21-yard scamper in the first quarter.
From there, the Kansas City defense clamped down on Tebow and the offense. Sure, the Chiefs allowed Willis McGahee to gain 145 yards, but when it mattered most, they rose to the occasion.
"We definitely played more of a bend-but-don't-break defense," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "You try to get (Tebow) to beat you with his arm."
On this afternoon, he couldn't.
Tebow had a dismal day in the biggest game of his NFL career. He completed just 6 of 22 passes for 60 yards. Tebow also fumbled with the Broncos inside the Chiefs 20.
Then, in crunch time — the last 5 minutes that's become known as Tebow Time — the unorthodox QB couldn't rally the team. On his last drive, Tebow tried to force a pass to Eddie Royal, only to have it intercepted by Brandon Carr.
Orton trotted onto the field for one final play, took a knee and that was that.
"I thank the Chiefs for giving me a chance and a fresh start," Orton said. "I like the guys we have in this locker room — a lot of solid, good character guys. I appreciate them letting me come in here and be part of the team and finish the season on a strong note."
Notes: WR Dwayne Bowe caught six passes for 93 yards in the first half. He sat out the second half with a neck injury. ... Chiefs C Casey Wiegmann may have played the final game of his 16-year career. The fact it was here, against his former team, only adds to the memory. "This is my ninth year with the Chiefs and this is the first time I've won in this stadium as a Chief," Wiegmann said. "It feels pretty good. This is a good way to finish."