DENVER -- Coach Gary Kubiak considered all the factors Sunday night, weighed all the options and went with his gut. He decided a tie wasn't good enough. He sent kicker Brandon McManus out for a 62-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Denver Broncos a dramatic win over the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a frenzied crowd.
Instead, McManus' kick fell well short and to the left. The Chiefs turned the quality field position left behind into a winning kick of their own four plays later, Cairo Santos' 34-yard effort bouncing off the left upright and then through to give Kansas City a 30-27 overtime victory.
"My thing is, we're going to try to win around here," Kubiak said. "I made that decision and it just didn't work out. I have a lot of confidence in Brandon, I have a lot of confidence in our football team. That's why I made the decision."
The Broncos had taken their last timeout to make the decision about what to do from the Chiefs' 44-yard line, facing a fourth-and-10. After a brief discussion with special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, and with some lobbying from McManus, Kubiak elected to go for the win with 1 minute, 8 seconds to play.
The snap from Thomas Gafford, signed on Friday as an injury replacement for Casey Kreiter, was on the money, and holder Riley Dixon got the ball down smoothly. But McManus' foot dug through the dirt in his attempt to power the ball for what have been a personal best.
"I kicked the ground, and from that distance you can't kick the ground," McManus said. "I can probably make that kick eight or nine out of 10 times, so I'm disappointed in that. When you're that far, you just want to hit a good ball and give it a chance."
Said Kubiak: "The fact that we had no timeouts made me want to go in that direction. If you did have your timeouts maybe you think about punting it down there and see if you can get the ball back. I don't know, we're going to try to win, I've seen [McManus] do that many times in practice. It's on me ... I thought we could do it and we didn't get it done."
McManus' miss will be the play to remember for some. But the Broncos' defense gave up three consecutive scoring drives to close out the fourth quarter and in overtime, the special teams were shaky at best and the offensive line had plenty of struggles as quarterback Trevor Siemian was sacked five times, including once for a safety.
The Broncos let Siemian's 368-yard, three-touchdown evening go to waste, and as a result they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of potentially missing the playoffs. This is, after all, a team that has won five consecutive division titles and made two Super Bowl trips in the past three seasons.
"It is do or die," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "... That is how we're looking at it."
"I think we have to win out," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "We're not used to this, but we know what we have to do."
Sunday's loss put Denver in third place in the division behind the Oakland Raiders (9-2) and the Chiefs (8-3), but more concerning is that the Broncos (7-4) are now tied with the Miami Dolphins in the AFC playoff race overall. And the Dolphins have a better AFC record, at 5-3 compared to the Broncos' 4-3.
"I think, obviously, this one stinks and we've got a bad taste in our mouth," Siemian said.
"We've got to win them all, that's how we look at it, but that's been our approach for a while," cornerback Chris Harris said. "We want to just get into the playoffs. If we get into the playoffs, we're scary for everybody."