Denver Rod Smith was on the sideline with a concussion, Jake Plummer was having an awful day, and nothing Mike Shanahan and his offensive staff came up with seemed to work.
Javon Walker bailed them all out.
He led Denver to a 9-6 victory over Kansas City on Sunday by grabbing a 24-yard jump ball to set up Jason Elam's 39-yard field goal 5:10 into overtime at Invesco Field.
"I'm finally getting back to how I used to be, I'm finally getting back to how I was in Green Bay," said the former Pro Bowl wide receiver acquired from the Packers in the offseason after missing almost all of last year with a torn knee ligament.
Walker led Denver with five catches for 79 yards and also had a key 16-yard run on a fourth-and-one reverse that set up Elam's first field goal. His biggest play came in overtime, when he raced down the right sideline, slyly shoved cornerback Ty Law and hauled in Plummer's pass at the Chiefs 25-yard line.
"Javon wants to make plays. He wants the ball," Shanahan said. "It's exciting to see a guy who wants to get the ball every play."
Shanahan praised Plummer's throw, but even Plummer admitted he didn't do anything special.
"There wasn't any timing on it, there was no leading him, nothing pretty about it. I was just throwing it up there and making sure I gave him a chance to come down with the ball, and he did," Plummer said. "And that's why we got him here."
So Plummer finally quieted the calls for his benching that began with his four-turnover performance at St. Louis and continued when he threw an interception Sunday. He guided Denver (1-1) to just six points on its first eight drives.
This was the lowest-scoring game in the 93 times the AFC West rivals have met - and the only one without a touchdown.
Kansas City (0-2) kept it close with an impeccable game plan. Damon Huard, starting for the injured Trent Green, completed 17 of 23 passes for 133 yards in his first start in nearly six seasons, and Larry Johnson gained 126 yards rushing and 41 receiving.
"We probably would have taken more chances if Trent Green had been playing," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said.
The Broncos, too, went with a conservative game plan after their turnover-filled opener.
Denver won the overtime coin flip and started at its 16 after Cedric Cobbs coughed up the kickoff. Plummer hit David Kircus for 14 yards and Tatum Bell burst through for a 20-yard run before Walker's big play.
Elam made three of four field goals, from 23, 22 and 39 yards, and missed a 44-yarder into a tricky wind after skipping two days of practice last week with a sore hip.
"The wind was blowing really strong right to left. I aimed it at the right upright and I missed it by about 40 feet," Elam said.
That's why he actually appreciated the Chiefs' timeout in overtime: "I was able to go out there and see what the wind was doing and see what the plant foot area looked like."
Plummer was 16-of-30 for 173 yards and an interception for a dismal passer rating 56.7. The Broncos' biggest failure came when they didn't get across the goal line after getting a first down at the Chiefs 1 late in the fourth quarter, and settled for Elam's tying 22-yard field goal with 5:54 left in regulation.
The Chiefs took a 6-0 lead on Lawrence Tynes' field goals of 29 and 45 yards.
Huard made one of his few mistakes when defensive end Michael Myers batted his pass right back into the quarterback's arms and Huard fumbled the ball as he was tackled by John Engelberger. Myers smothered it at the Denver 37.
The Broncos drove to the Chiefs 5-yard line, but had to settle for Elam's 23-yard field goal with 54 seconds left in the third quarter that made it 6-3.
It was the second straight game Denver's defense sparkled and its offense sputtered.
"Our defense is playing the best football I've seen since I've been around," said Smith, who's been in Denver for 13 seasons. "We've got to catch up."
The Chiefs also felt their offense let the team down.
"When you don't score touchdowns, you are never satisfied with what you did," Huard said after his first start since Nov. 26, 2000, while with Miami. "We did move the ball, we got a lot of first downs, and we controlled the football in the first half. We just had some unfortunate things happen in the red zone."
Like Nick Ferguson punching the ball out of Johnson's hands at the Broncos 5, which John Lynch recovered.
Notes: Denver didn't commit any penalties for just the third time in franchise history. The others came in 1967 against Kansas City and 1983 against Chicago. ... Smith took two hard hits, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth, but didn't want to discuss his injury.