It looked like Kansas City was finally going to get over the hump. The Chiefs hadn't beaten the Denver Broncos since Peyton Manning came to town, losing six straight to their AFC West rival.
But with a depleted Broncos roster, a strong K.C. offseason and questions swirling about Manning's longevity, 2015 has been deemed the Chiefs' best opportunity to steal the division from Denver.
That may still happen. But on Thursday night, the Chiefs collapsed at the finish line, giving up two touchdowns in nine seconds to turn a possible win into a crushing loss. Two of the league's top fantasy stars played critical roles -- one of them in a way he would rather forget.
Kansas City was protecting a 21-14 lead as Manning led the Broncos on a late fourth-quarter drive. As the pressure mounted, the Chiefs gave up a 19-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that tied the game with 36 seconds left.
The Chiefs then received the ball with the option of making one last drive, or running out the clock to send the game into overtime. Neither happened: Instead, star running back Jamaal Charles received the handoff on first-and-10 only to cough up the ball. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby scooped up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown.
In less than 10 seconds, the Chiefs went from a 21-14 lead to a 21-28 deficit. And with just 27 seconds left, Kansas City couldn't put together a credible effort to try and tie the game.
The primetime Broncos victory will be remembered for yet another clutch fourth-quarter touchdown from Manning, who led a precise, methodical drive despite looking drained and punchless for long stretches of the game.
But the victory is just as much the fault of Charles, who ranks among the league leaders in fumbles -- in 2014, no NFL player had more fumbles than the Chiefs' MVP candidate.
Charles leads the league in usage rate and ranks among the top fantasy options in the NFL, but his fumbling problem is a source of frustration in Kansas City. The Chiefs need Charles to win, but on some nights -- such as Thursday, where he had another fumble earlier in the game, that time in the red zone -- it's just as easy to see him as a liability rather than a savior.
Still, the season is young. More chapters remain in this Chiefs-Broncos rivalry.