The Denver Broncos took their winning streak to three games yesterday with a gritty effort against the Cincinnati Bengals. More importantly, it was their second consecutive victory on the road. That bodes very well for a team that should be able to take care of business at home throughout the rest of the season. Add it all up and Denver is well on their way to posting their first winning record in six years. But this Broncos team isn’t going to be satisfied with merely a winning record. They have the look of a team who can accomplish much more.
Denver lost the turnover and rushing yardage battles while playing on the road, yet they still led by double digits late in the game before the Bengals kicked a field goal in garbage time. It takes a tough team to accomplish that in the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to have a guy like Peyton Manning at quarterback. The Broncos know they are never out of it with him behind center and that there is no need to panic when they face adversity. They are starting to believe they will win every time they take the field. Mental toughness like that is a quality of great teams and it will be valuable when Denver plays big games later in the year.
Here are some thoughts on the Broncos 31-23 win over the Bengals:
- The lack of an effective rushing attack was surprising. There were a couple of nice runs late in the game when Denver started to wear out the Bengals defense, but 66 rushing yards for Willis McGahee isn’t going to get it done. More concerning was his 2.9 yard average. He just didn’t seem to have the pop he had in previous weeks. Some credit must be given to Cincinnati’s front 7, but more production was expected against the 20th ranked rushing defense.
- It was nice to see Champ Bailey get a pick in a big spot. Andy Dalton threw several balls that could have been intercepted but Denver couldn’t take advantage of them until Bailey got one in the fourth quarter. Bailey’s interception was his first of the season, and it set the offense up in great field position which led to Denver’s final touchdown and put the game out of reach.
- Wesley Woodyard is officially a tackling machine. His stat line wasn’t quite as impressive as it was a week ago, but he still managed 14 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. He certainly has taken advantage of his opportunities in the starting lineup.
- Peyton Manning once again threw for 3 touchdowns, but this time he was also tagged for 2 interceptions. He finished with 291-yards passing and a quarterback rating of 105.8. It may not have been his best game but he once again showed he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. When the Broncos got behind in the fourth quarter there was no doubt that Manning would get the offense rolling and they would be alright. He has changed the culture of the organization, and every person associated with the team believed they were going to find a way to win yesterday.
- Speaking of Manning, he has now thrown 20 touchdowns versus only 6 interceptions. At this rate he will finish with 40 touchdown passes on the year which would be his second largest season total of his career (he threw 49 in 2004). He is also on pace to finish the year with the second highest quarterback rating of his career. It’s hard to believe how efficient and effective he has been. Make sure you take time to appreciate the fact he plays for the Denver Broncos.
- The Denver defense harassed Andy Dalton all day and racked up 5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits. Von Miller had a monster game and registered 3 of those sacks which pushed him into a tie for second in the NFL with 9.0. It has become apparent there is no better finisher in the game when his team is protecting a lead.
- If you heard that a Broncos receiver had 8 catches for 99-yards receiving and 2 touchdowns, you would probably guess it was Demaryius Thomas. But it was Eric Decker who put up the eye-popping numbers this week. He had his best game of the year and caught a touchdown pass in his fifth straight game. It looks like he is turning into Manning’s favorite red zone target.
- The Denver offense may not have lost a fumble yesterday, which was a nice change of pace, but they were still having a hard time holding onto the ball. Brandon Stokley, Jacob Tamme, and Thomas all had drops which killed drives. Add in Manning’s red zone interception and the Broncos left a lot of points on the field.
- I called it! Trindon Holliday broke through with possibly the play of the day. His 105-yard kickoff return was the longest in franchise history and made the difference in a tight game. If the broncos add an explosive kick return game to their arsenal, watch out.
- Next up is a road contest against the Carolina Panthers and last year’s rookie phenom Cam Newton. It will be another chance for Denver to prove they can win on the road and keep this winning streak going. Go Broncos!