KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Turns out the Denver Broncos didn't need Matt Cassel. Kyle Orton has worked out just fine.
Orton outplayed the man who hastened his move to Denver and the Broncos used a punishing game to manhandle the Kansas City Chiefs 44-13 on Sunday.
Orton threw two touchdown passes and Denver (8-4) had 245 yards rushing to turn the 99th meeting between AFL originals into a laugher. Correll Buckhalter ran for 113 yards and Knowshon Moreno had two touchdown runs to help the Broncos stay within reach of San Diego in the AFC West.
The Chiefs (3-9) didn't put up much of a fight on the day they retired Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas' number.
Kansas City gave up 17 plays of 10 yards or more and has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1983. Cassel had a 14.6 quarterback rating before being pulled and the Chiefs finished with a lackluster 222 total yards.
The game was a reunion of sorts for Cassel and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. Both were with the New England Patriots last season, McDaniels as the offensive coordinator, Cassel the capable fill-in after Tom Brady went down in the season opener — against the Chiefs, no less.
They remained linked during an offseason dustup between McDaniels and Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, who was upset after learning the Broncos wanted to trade for Cassel.
The Broncos sent Cutler to Chicago — where he's been inconsistent — getting Orton in the exchange. Cassel landed in Kansas City, becoming the Chiefs' $60 million man after signing a six-year contract extension.
In their first head-to-head matchup, Orton wasn't great, just better than Cassel.
Orton had an interception on the opening drive — off his back foot into the end zone — and lost two fumbles on blindside sacks. He was efficient the rest of the time in Denver's dink-and-dunk offense, throwing 7-yard touchdown passes to Daniel Graham and Brandon Marshall, finishing 15 for 25 for 180 yards.
Cassel was jittery and off-target against his one-time suitor. He threw two interceptions in the third quarter to start the rout and finished with 84 yards on 10-of-29 passing before being replaced by Brodie Croyle for the final 16:02.
Kansas City's offense sputtered all day.
A 20-play drive in the first half stalled at the 1, leading to a 22-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. A midfield sack and fumble by Orton led to another Succop field goal, a 47-yarder that pulled the Chiefs within 14-6 heading into halftime.
The game fell apart for the Chiefs in the second half.
A miserably executed fake punt at their own 28 — on fourth-and-8 — on the opening drive led to a 44-yard field goal by Matt Prater. Then a miscommunication between Cassel and Lance Long was easily intercepted by Andre Goodman, setting up Marshall's catch-and-run touchdown.
Next drive, another Cassel interception led to the second of Prater's three field goals, from 38 yards.
Goodman sealed it for Denver at the end of the third quarter, returning Jamaal Charles' fumble 30 yards for a touchdown that put the Broncos up 34-6.