The Denver Broncos proved they can overcome adversity and win a tough road game by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 31-23 on Sunday. Peyton Manning led the charge with 291-yards passing and 3 touchdowns in a victory that pushed the Broncos winning streak to three games.
The running game was bottled up by the Bengals defense for most of the day. Willis McGahee finished with only 66-yards rushing and a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. Denver also lost the turnover battle by a 2-1 margin with both Broncos giveaways coming on Manning interceptions in the second half. That put a lot of pressure on the offense to respond late in the game, but in typical Manning fashion he rose to the occasion. Manning threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter that gave Denver the lead 31-20 with only 3:36 left in the game. Cincinnati managed a late field goal to get within one score, but a failed onside kick sealed the win for the Broncos.
This one felt like a game Denver wouldn’t have won a year ago. But the attitude of this Broncos squad has changed with Manning behind center. The Broncos now sit alone in first place in the AFC West with a 5-3 record, and they seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time.
Denver came out quickly for the second week in a row and held the Bengals to a quick three and out on their first possession of the game. Manning promptly drove the field behind a 21-yard completion to Eric Decker and settled for a Matt Prater field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Broncos dropped several balls against Cincinnati, and Denver’s second series of the game stalled after drops by Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley were sandwiched around an offensive pass interference call against Eric Decker. The Bengals responded with a tying field goal early in the second quarter before the Broncos mounted their first touchdown drive of the day. The key play of the drive was a 45-yard completion to Thomas down the left sideline. He had to leave the game momentarily due to injury before coming back in and making a big block on Decker’s ensuing 13-yard touchdown catch.
The Bengals moved the ball right before half but saw a Mike Nugent field goal attempt from 41 yards out sail wide right as time expired. Denver went to the locker room with a 10-3 lead and some momentum after the Cincinnati miss.
The Broncos had their biggest play of the game on the opening kickoff of the second half. Trindon Holliday finally made a big special teams play by returning the kick 105 yards to give Denver a 17-3 lead. It was the longest return in franchise history and looked like it might kick start a Denver blowout.
That’s when the Bengals offense woke up. They scored the next 17 points with help from their defense which picked off Manning twice including once in the Denver red zone. By the time BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored with 14:10 left in the 4th quarter the Broncos were trailing 20-17. Peyton Manning once again took control of a game late and responded with back-to-back touchdown drives that covered 125 total yards and put the game out of reach.
The Broncos finished 9 of 14 on 3rd down conversions and didn’t give up a single sack of Manning. Eric Decker caught two touchdowns and totaled 99-yards receiving. Joel Dreessen added a touchdown catch early in the 4th quarter.
The Denver defense shut down the Bengals in the first half and came up with a big stop late in the fourth quarter that got the ball back in Manning’s hot hands. Wesley Woodyard finished with 14 tackles on the day, and Von Miller racked up 3 sacks of Andy Dalton. Elvis Dumervil and Danny Trevathan also chipped in with one sack each. Despite struggling to contain A.J. Green most of the day, Champ Bailey came down with a key interception in the fourth quarter that led to Denver’s final touchdown.