Broncos win statistical battle, lose game

Updated: October 6, 2003, 7:11 PM ET

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos won the running back duel, had more total yards and got a better performance from their quarterback.

But what should have been a win over Kansas City on Sunday turned into a 24-23 loss -- Denver's first of the season -- because of some untimely penalties and a spectacular punt return by Dante Hall.

"The only thing that matters is winning, and we didn't play well enough to win. That's the bottom line," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. "Obviously, you do some good things, but you've got to find a way to get it done and we didn't do it. That's really the only thing that matters."

The Broncos had 469 total yards and held the Chiefs to 261. Clinton Portis was back after missing last week's game with a bruised chest and finished with 220 total yards -- 123 more than Priest Holmes.

Quarterback Jake Plummer didn't do anything spectacular, but he also didn't throw an interception like Kansas City's Trent Green.

But for everything the Broncos did right, they couldn't stop one of the smallest players on the field when they needed to the most.

Hall entered the game with kick returns for touchdowns in three straight games and the Broncos did their best to keep it from him in the first three quarters.

But early in the fourth, Hall took a punt inside Kansas City's 10-yard line, danced around a bit, went backward a few yards then took off for a 93-yard touchdown. The Broncos seemingly had Hall surrounded at one point, but they couldn't even get a hand on him.

"We had opportunities to go down there and make a tackle on him, we don't and the end result they scored and we didn't," Broncos special teams captain Keith Burns said.

But in reviewing the game film on Monday, Shanahan noticed what even Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil had seen: Kansas City's Julian Battle clipped Chris Cole during the return.

"If you're asking me if there was a clip, yeah, there was a clip. It doesn't take a football genius to figure that one out, especially looking at it on the tape," Shanahan said. "It's always tough when you see something that's pretty obvious that you don't get, but that's the nature of this league."

It's not like the Broncos didn't have their chances to put it away before Hall's return.

After scoring 10 touchdowns in 14 attempts inside the opponents' 20-yard line the first four games, the Broncos were just 1-for-4 in the red zone against the Chiefs.

Guard Dan Neil was called for a holding penalty in the second quarter, resulting in a field goal by Jason Elam, and Portis was called for a false start to stall another drive. The Broncos also failed on three tries from the Chiefs' 4-yard line in the third quarter.

Punt returner Deltha O'Neal also set up Kansas City's first touchdown with a fumble on Denver's end in the first quarter.

"We left some plays out there on the field," tight end Shannon Sharpe said. "Give them credit, but I think it was more us not taking advantage of the mistakes they made defensively. Obviously, they were out of position a lot of times and we didn't capitalize on it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index