This game for the Denver Broncos had “trap game” written all over it. The ingredients were there, emotional win over the Chargers, dominating win over the Saints, two weeks for the Bengals to prepare and the beginning of a soft schedule for the Broncos, this could have slipped into the Cincinnati Bengals favor…and it almost did.
To start the second half, the Broncos returned a kickoff return for 105 yards (club record) for a score in part to the speed and shifty moves of WR/KR Trindon Holliday. 17-3 Broncos against a struggling Bengals time, game over right?! Wrong.
Game on after the kickoff return…The Bengals defense stepped up, took away the Broncos running game which was non-existent.
Following the kick return, Dalton took to the air on their first drive, which included a fifty two yard completion to TE Jermaine Gresham that would set up the Bengals for a TD pass from Dalton to WR A.J. Green.
It was Mannings turn to take to the field, and he showed off the skills that makes him a future H.O.F’er.
He moved the Broncos down the field with the Bengals knowing what was coming with no running game. On this day, both defense’s gave up yardage to opposing QB’s, but played opportunistic defense as well. The Bengals showed it off first by intercepting Manning in the endzone for a touchback.
The Bengals offense continued to move the ball down the field, and again, defense stepping up in a big way, this time by the Broncos. LB Von Miller would step up and sack Dalton on third down to force the Bengals to a field goal. Miller was good for three sacks on the day.
The ball would go back into the hands of the Broncos offense, and the pendulum would swing back into Cincy’s favor. With pressure coming into the face of Manning, he attempted to get the ball down the field to WR Eric Decker. Result? Two straight passes to Decker, two passes intercepted by Bengals CB Terrance Newman.
Bengals offense went to work in the redzone, punching the ball in from two yards out. Suddenly, the Broncos go from leading 17-10 to trailing 20-17 early in the fourth.
Although the Broncos defense had come up with plays at crucial times, Manning knew he had made a mistake that put the defense in a tough spot, allowing the Cincinnati to take the lead.
“I can’t put our defense in that kind of situation. It was a poor decision on my part. We faced some adversity there and we were able to respond” says Manning to the Denver Post.
With the Broncos now in the fourth quarter, one must had to believe that they were going to make something happen, especially with #18 at the helm. The Broncos would respond with several intermediate and deep passes. With a little help from the Bengals defense with a pass interference call, Denver was set up nicely from one yard out. Manning would connect with TE Joel Dreessen from one yard out for his third touchdown and 291 yards in the air. Broncos now lead 24-20.
Dalton, who passed for 299 yards and TD pass, continued to work his way towards AJ Greens side, who was god for 99 yards and a touchdown on the day, eventually got see what it was like when you keep going towards CB Champ Baileys way, “when you play with fire long enough, you’re going to get burned”. Bailey picked off an under thrown pass Green’s way, who had been getting the best of Bailey most of the day. The INT would eventually lead to Manning TD pass to Decker and Denver would go on to win 31-23 and improve to 5-3 on the season.
This was a game for the QB’s. 725 total yards in the game, 566 was from the arms of the Manning and Dalton, that would equate to 78% of the games yardage. This game would be won on the arms of the QB’s and also the mistakes that each defense was capitalize on. 3 INT’s between each team, and 5 sacks by the Broncos defense. What separated this game from being a Bengals win instead? Timeliness of the defenses plays. Denver would sack Dalton on second down, putting the Bengals in obvious third and long passing situations, or they would create pressure of the edge and get to the QB on third down. Sure, Cincy came up with two INT’s, but they came at a time where there was plenty of time to comeback from those mistakes. Denver would take the lead and pick Dalton off late in the fourth, putting added pressure on the offense to come out and lead a comeback of a bigger deficit.
The Broncos survived several scares and overcame not a great performance by Manning to win a game that could’ve been seen as a “trap game”