KANSAS CITY, MO., DEC. 9 -- Steve DeBerg threw three touchdown passes and Barry Word got the go-ahead score on a fourth-and-one plunge, lifting Kansas City past Denver, 31-20, today and giving Chiefs Coach Marty Schottenheimer his first victory in seven games against the Broncos.

The triumph was the fourth in a row and fifth in six games for the Chiefs (9-4), who moved a half-game ahead of Los Angeles in the AFC West, pending the Raiders' Monday night game in Detroit. The defending AFC champion Broncos dropped to 3-10 with their sixth consecutive defeat, their worst losing streak since a nine-game slide in 1967.

The Broncos, who twice beat Schottenheimer's Cleveland Browns in AFC title games, scored two straight touchdowns to take a 13-7 halftime lead. But Dino Hackett recovered Shannon Sharpe's fumble as the Broncos were driving in the third period. Eight plays later, Word scored on fourth and one to put the Chiefs on top, 17-13.

Word stepped in just after Christian Okoye, the 1989 NFL rushing champion, was carried off with a shoulder injury after failing to score on second and goal from the 10.

The Chiefs were well aware Schottenheimer, and several of his assistants, had never beaten the Broncos.

"There was nothing said, but you could sense all week that this was a special one, and you know why it was special," said Kansas City linebacker Dino Hackett. "We've all grown very close to this coaching staff. We wanted it for ourselves and for our team, sure. But it was nice to get it for them too. They had suffered some tough losses to those guys -- some heartbreaking losses."

It was the eighth time the Broncos have lost after leading at halftime. They had overcome a 7-0 deficit as DeBerg threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Stephone Paige on a flea-flicker.