Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

DENVER -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 27-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: The Broncos are back on top in the race for the AFC West title. The Chiefs had been able to get one game’s worth of separation with the Broncos’ loss in Indianapolis last month, but Denver erased that Sunday night. Both teams are 9-1, but the Broncos now have a win in hand with six games to play. They meet the Chiefs again Dec. 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Stock watch: Folks kept wondering when a Broncos defense that finished at or near the top of every major defensive category last season would make an appearance. The defense kept Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles in check for much of the night and the Chiefs could not find a Plan B.

Wall it off: Peyton Manning was wearing a heavy brace on his much-publicized injured right ankle, which limited his mobility. But a combination of Manning’s quick throws and a high-quality effort from the Broncos’ offensive line kept Manning from being sacked by a defense that came in leading the league in sacks. In fact, the Broncos had things under control enough to empty out the backfield for a red-zone play in the third quarter.

Bounce-back effort: Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball fumbled on his second carry of the game, deep in Denver's territory with just under six minutes remaining in the first quarter. He was then given a fumble-induced cooling down period on the sideline that routinely comes with that misstep. But he re-entered the game in the second quarter and finished with two touchdowns, his second and third of the season.

What’s next: The Broncos head to New England, where they will play their second consecutive Sunday prime-time game. The Patriots' defensive backs figure to get physical with the Broncos' receivers, a Bill Belichick staple against high-powered offenses, and the Denver wideouts are going to have to be ready to win the hand-fighting to play the ball.