DENVER -- Hidden inside Terrance Knighton's gargantuan body listed generously at 330 pounds is a former tight end who dreams of playing offense.
"I have great ball instincts being an ex-wide receiver," Denver's mammoth nose tackle said after preserving the Broncos' 24-17 win over the scrappy Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Knighton deflected Alex Smith's fourth-and-goal pass from the 2 to Dwayne Bowe with 15 seconds left. He was engaged with center Rodney Hudson when he reached up and felt the football smack into his right arm, then skitter harmlessly into the end zone.
"I'd rather it be my arm than theirs," Knighton said.
"Might have to send two guys out of the game to put Terrance in there," Manning deadpanned. "Believe it or not, I have thrown some passes to him in practice and he does have good hands. I will vouch for that. High school receiver, he says."
The Broncos (2-0) didn't think it would come down to another goal-line stand. But Aqib Talib's pick-6 earlier in the drive was negated by Quanterus Smith's offside penalty. Then, Nate Irving's fumble recovery following DeMarcus Ware's sack and strip was changed to an incomplete pass after a review.
"We had two takeaways taken away," Broncos coach John Fox said. "There are going to be things we'll look at that we need to improve on. But we'll take every `W' we get."
The Chiefs (0-2), without All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles for much of the game, converted 11 of 16 third-down opportunities overall. They just couldn't capitalize in the biggest moments as the Broncos mustered two goal-line stands for the second straight week.
Manning was 21 of 26 for 242 yards and three TDs with no interceptions, but spent most of the game on the sideline. The Broncos had the ball for less than 10 minutes in the second half.
"It's part of football," Manning said. "I've been in games like that where you get excited on third-and-long, start warming up, ready to get out there. The defense out there, they were maybe bending a little, but not breaking."
Smith was 26 of 42 for 255 yards, and Knile Davis ran 22 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City.
Without Wes Welker for the second straight game and facing a defense that lost Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and tackle Mike DeVito last week, Manning targeted his tight ends again. He found Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme for 4-yard TDs in the first half.
Manning also threw a 12-yarder to Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos (2-0) head to Seattle (1-1) next week not exactly with a head of steam. They'll face the Seahawks, who handed them a Super Bowl shellacking and then talked trash about them in the offseason.
The Broncos have their issues on third downs, but they certainly have come up big on the goal line.
Smith led the Chiefs on a 19-play drive that ate up 10 minutes coming out of halftime. They came up empty after getting to the Denver 4 on the strength of five third-down conversions.
"I guess that answered the question if we're out of shape," Knighton said.
An offensive holding call and linebacker Brandon Marshall's sack dropped the Chiefs back to the 19. Cairo Santos, who beat out veteran Ryan Succop in camp, was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt.
"We've got to punch it in, bottom line," said Bowe, who caught three passes for 40 yards in his return from a one-game suspension.
The Chiefs got it right the next time, converting three third downs on a 14-play drive that covered 90 yards. Davis trotted in from 4 yards, pulling Kansas City to 21-17 with 7:11 left.
Santos, however, failed to kick a touchback and Bubba Caldwell returned it 54 yards, setting up Brandon McManus' 20-yard field goal with 3:27 left.
Coach Andy Reid said he doesn't regret cutting Succop and keeping Santos: "Our guy's got to kick better right now but I don't ever look back on those things."
Kansas City was trying to get Charles more involved after giving him just seven carries against Tennessee in the opener. But he left after running just twice for 4 yards and catching one pass for 8 yards.
Reid blamed himself for poor play calls in the red zone, but Smith said Charles' absence was sorely felt close to the goal line.
"Everything is magnified down there," Smith said. "It hurts to have him out."
Emmanuel Sanders led the Broncos with eight catches for 108 yards, the first 100-yard game of his career. ... Demaryius Thomas had an 80-yard TD catch negated when right tackle Chris Clark was whistled for being downfield.
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