KUSA - Eric Decker and Peyton Manning were just picking on the rookie.
The Denver Broncos' quarterback-receiver tandem took advantage of a mismatch on Kansas City rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper. The duo hooked up for four touchdown passes in the Broncos' 35-28 win Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Decker set a team record with the four TD catches in the game, and Manning continues to add his name to a number of NFL and Denver records.
With Demaryius Thomas struggling because of a shoulder injury on the Broncos' first play, tight end Julius Thomas inactive because of a knee injury and Wes Welker getting double-teamed often, Manning said Decker became the key target.
"Eric ran really good routes. His touchdowns were on two guys, [Brandon] Flowers, who is one of the cover corners, and number 31 [Cooper]," Manning said. "Those guys are good players. Hey, you're not in the NFL unless you're a good player. If you run good routes and you have time to make an accurate pass, sometimes it's tough to defend. I really just give Decker more of the credit as opposed to saying we were going after one particular guy."
Denver trailed 21-14 at halftime, but found the end zone on three consecutive second-half drives that covered 80, 92 and 95 yards. The last ended with Decker's fourth TD catch (Manning's fifth of the game) for a 35-21 lead with 14:20 left in the game.
"I'm thankful I have some of the best receivers in the league to play with. To have the opportunity to have one-on-one coverage with them around just makes it a little easier," Decker said. "I was able to make some good plays today to get off the hump. It's been a bad month for me."
But the Chiefs had a final chance to tie the game, matching down to the Broncos' 17-yard line. But on fourth-and-4 with 1:51 left in the game, quarterback Alex Smith's pass to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone was defended by Michael Adams.
Denver took over and was able to run out the clock. The Broncos (10-2) take control of the AFC West as the Chiefs (9-3) lost for the third consecutive week. It is Denver's fourth straight win over the Chiefs.
"We knew coming in this game was for our division," Decker said.
Two of Decker's scores came against Cooper, who earlier in the game intercepted Manning and led to the Chiefs taking a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
The majority of Decker's eight catches came when Cooper, who was claimed off waivers right before the start of the season (after he was cut by San Francisco), was trying to cover the fourth-year receiver.
"He had the interception and then the one thing he did was he came back and battled," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "That's not an easy thing as a rookie, young kid and he's put in a big time position out there and he's not giving up on himself which is important and there's a challenge every play."
Manning has an NFL-record 4,125 yards through 12 games this season, and he continues his run at Tom Brady's single-season record of 50 touchdown passes. Manning has 41 TD passes this season with four games to play.
Manning finished Sunday's game 22-of-35 passing for 403 yards with two interceptions. He was 11-of-20 for 182 yards on the first half. It is his third 400-yard game this season. Decker finished with 174 yards receiving.
Broncos rookie Montee Ball finished with a game-high 117 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Kansas City's Jamaal Charles finished with 93 yards on 19 carries.
The Broncos jumped out in the second half on the first possession to tie the game at 21, covering 80 yards in just seven plays. Manning found Decker for their second TD play, this one for 37 yards.
Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas, who injured his shoulder in the first half but returned, went 78 yards on the second play of the Broncos' second possession of the third quarter, but was caught at the Chiefs' 15-yard line.
"I could tell [Thomas] wasn't 100 percent," Manning said. "He had two critical plays, but you could see he couldn't pump his arms on that long play."
Facing third-and-10 at the 15, Manning connected with Decker in the middle of the end zone for a 28-21 lead with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
That play put Manning over 4,000 yards passing for an NFL-record 13th time in his career.
The Chiefs' offense had little trouble against the Broncos in the first quarter, amassing 160 yards and a 7-0 lead on Alex Smith's 17-yard pass to Junior Hemingway with 2:41 left in the quarter.
Denver tied the game at 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter when Manning threw a perfect pass to Decker, who was being covered by Brandon Flower and Kendrick Lewis, for a 41-yard score.
But the Broncos gave the points right back on the kickoff when rookie Knile Davis raced 108 yards on the return, which became the longest play in Chiefs' history (previous was 106-yard return in 1967). It was first kickoff return given up by Denver since October 2010 at Tennessee.
Just three plays later, Manning threw his second interception of the first half, and Cooper returned it 20 yards to the Broncos' 22-yard line. Kansas City needed just five plays to get into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
It was Manning's ninth interception this season. Along with his six fumbles, opponents have converted Manning's 15 turnovers into 69 points.
"We know we have the greatest quarterback in the game," said Champ Bailey, who played for the first time since Oct. 20. "To be a good team down the stretch you have to show some toughest, and that's what happened today."
Denver pulled within 21-14 when Manning took the Broncos 70 yards on nine plays and capped the drive with a 3-yard swing pass to Knowshon Moreno with 4:21 left in the first half. It was Manning's 38th TD pass this season to set the team's single-season record (he had 37 last season).
Manning also moved into second on the Broncos' all-time TD passing list. He now has 78, which is second only to John Elway's 300. Craig Morton is third with 74.
Denver's defense made a big stop on the Chiefs' first drive when Wesley Woodyard picked off Smith in the end zone on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line. But the Broncos gave it back when Manning was intercepted when he was trying to get the ball to Thomas, who was being double-covered. It was Manning's first interception in a first quarter this season.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)