Denver The negativity was hanging over the Denver Broncos like a dark winter cloud.
Riding a four-game losing streak, they were facing angry fans and the league’s top-ranked rushing team while also dealing with star linebacker D.J. Williams’ drunken-driving arrest that had him stewing on the sideline to start the game Sunday.
“We didn’t flinch at all,” Mario Haggan said. “We love D.J. Everybody makes mistakes. I make them. I don’t know a person who doesn’t.
“It didn’t affect us at all. Did it look like it?”
Not in the least.
Haggan, Knowshon Moreno and Kyle Orton all had career days as the Broncos steamrolled the Kansas City Chiefs 49-29. The only time the Broncos scored more was in 1963, when they put up 50 on the San Diego Chargers, and they could have topped that but eschewed a makable field goal late in the game.
That didn’t prevent Chiefs coach Todd Haley from refusing to shake Broncos boss Josh McDaniels’ hand afterward.
McDaniels seemed perplexed when Haley wagged his finger in his face and appeared to scold him before quickly turning away.
In his postgame interview, Haley didn’t directly answer a question about the exchange. He talked about how his players continued to play hard when the game got out of reach and “sometimes you see indicators” of where the opponent “thinks the game is.”
Orton threw a career-high four touchdown passes and was hardly touched behind a refurbished line that opened up the holes for the Broncos to do their best imitation of the Chiefs’ NFL-leading ground game in a rout of the AFC West leaders.
“We didn’t hurt ourselves, first and foremost,” Orton said. “We’ve just been plagued by penalties and turnovers and bad football.”
Not on this day.
Moreno topped 100 yards for the first time in his 1 1/2 seasons in the NFL, gaining 106 yards on 22 carries and catching three passes for 50 yards and a TD as the Broncos (3-6) kept alive their thin hopes of getting back into the playoff race by handing the Chiefs (5-4) their second straight loss.
The Broncos stuffed the Chiefs’ vaunted ground game by jumping out to a 35-0 lead behind a trio of touchdown passes from Orton, a one-yard run by Tim Tebow and a 75-yard fumble return for a TD by linebacker Jason Hunter.
Tebow also threw his first NFL pass, a three-yard TD toss to fullback Spencer Larsen.
“I think we caught them off-guard,” Tebow said.
Ahead 35-10 at halftime, the Broncos kept the Chiefs from turning to their two-headed monster of a ground game as Jamaal Charles was held to 41 yards and Thomas Jones managed just 3. The Chiefs entered averaging 180 yards rushing, 113 more than Denver, which ranked last in the league.
On this day, the Broncos rushed for 153 yards and the Chiefs 51.
“We had to answer back and we didn’t answer back,” Charles said.
The Broncos benefited from their bye week to get several starters back from injuries, including right tackle Ryan Harris (ankle), whose return allowed rookie Zane Beadles to go back to left guard, finally giving Denver the offensive line it envisioned in training camp.
“Ryan brings a physical attitude, just a real nasty demeanor,” Orton said. “I know I feed off it. I think the backs fed off it and I think the whole offensive line likes it.”
The Broncos controlled the clock and the game thanks to a fast start that stunned both the Chiefs and the crowd that was dotted by thousands of empty seats in the first game at Invesco Field since Oakland’s 45-point shellacking of Denver three weeks ago.
Orton, who spent the bye week nursing a sore shoulder courtesy of San Francisco linebacker Manny Lawson, took advantage of Denver’s big lead to stay upright for a change and also capitalized on the absence of safeties Kendrick Lewis and Jon McGraw to pick apart the Chiefs for 296 yards.
“Clean pants the whole game for me. I didn’t get hit, I didn’t get tackled,” Orton said, smiling. “The running backs had holes. It was great.”
Shut out in the first quarter of every game since Sept. 19, the Broncos exploded for three first-quarter touchdowns and never looked back.
Haggan, who had four career sacks in his eight NFL seasons, collected three sacks in the first half. He stripped the ball from Cassel on his third one, and Hunter scooped it up for the long TD.
“I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me,” Hunter said after rumbling for more yards on that one play than the Chiefs managed all afternoon.
Trailing big, the Chiefs had no choice but to air it out and Cassel threw for a career-high 469 yards on 33-of-53 passing. He hit Dwayne Bowe for two touchdowns. Reaching the end zone for a team record-tying fifth straight game, Bowe finished with a career-high 13 catches for 186 yards.
“We’re 5-4 now,” Chiefs center Casey Wiegmann said. “We blew a game in Houston. We blew a game in Oakland. We could be way out in front, but it’s not what it is. We’re tied for the AFC West (with the Raiders) and we have work to do.”
Williams wasn’t in a celebrating mood like his teammates were after getting fined, stripped of his captaincy and replaced by Wesley Woodyard to start the game following his DUI arrest that could also land him in the commissioner’s doghouse.
Williams, who made a tackle on his first play but finished with just two stops, turned to a cadre of reporters who had waited for him to get dressed and scowled, “I’m not talking!”
Notes: The Chiefs’ record for most points allowed is 54, vs. Buffalo in ’08. ... Broncos S Renaldo Hill injured his neck.