By Rich Kurtzman
Has anyone seen the Denver Broncos? They seem to have gone missing, especially on Monday Night Football. To begin the game, Denver’s awesome offense was a shadow of its usual self as the run-first strategy wasn’t working. Luckily, Aqib Talib came to play and his sensational pick-six started the scoring for the Broncos. That 7-0 lead was short-lived though, as the Bengals ran off 17 straight points to lead by 10 at the break. The third quarter was when Peyton Manning and Co. came alive, putting up three touchdowns to steal the lead at 28-27. Then the rain started and increased until the game was over. It affected everyone, especially Manning and Denver’s passing game. Following that great third quarter, Manning threw three interceptions and the offense punted twice while the Bengals scored 10 to win 37-28.
Offense – D-
This was by far the worst performance in Manning’s three seasons in the Mile High City. His four interceptions thrown were the most as a Broncos quarterback and he was incredibly off on some throws, especially in the driving rain. C.J. Anderson didn’t have his usual burst, though the Broncos went to him over and over and over again, both on runs and on short passes. Demaryius Thomas was good, but not great, including key drops in the fourth quarter when the team was attempting a comeback.
Defense – C-
Denver’s defense has been celebrated for their sensational play against the run but the league’s No. 2 unit against the run was trampled all night by Jeremy Hill. Talib’s amazing interception – a one-handed catch and return to the house – started everyone off on the right foot but then things got sloppy. Todd Davis, the rookie linebacker getting his first start, busted through the line of scrimmage and had a play on Hill but missed the tackle. Hill ran to the outside and all the way, 85 yards, to paydirt. At the end of the first half and beginning of the second, Andy Dalton’s running of the read-option was killing the defense, as was the Bengals’ extensive use of the screen game. Von Miller’s manly forced fumble in the third quarter saved a score from being put on the board as Cincy was within the red zone.
Special Teams – F
Adam Jones went off on the special teams squad, enjoying both huge punt and kickoff returns. They looked lost trying to tackle Jones as they lost the field position battle time and time again. Connor Barth missed his 49-yard field goal attempt to end the first half, hooking it wide right and ending any momentum the team could’ve carried into the break. The lone positive play was Bolden’s brilliant 77-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Coaching – D
Following Bolden’s great return, they decided to put Emmanuel Sanders back to return the kick. Why? We may never know. The game started with the offense dictating the pace and running the ball almost exclusively. It’s the same strategy they’ve used for the last month-plus, but it wasn’t working. Finally, they switched to the up-tempo passing attack to end the first half and in the second, which worked.
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.