Monday Night Football resembled a heavyweight prizefight. The winning knockout was provided by the Denver Broncos, as they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-17 in overtime. The loss dropped the Bengals to the No. 3 seed and helped Denver advance to the playoffs. According to ESPN, Denver can earn the top seed in the AFC with a win over San Diego and a loss by New England at Miami next weekend.
The Cincinnati Bengals came out firing from the opening kickoff. There was no hesitation from the offense. The theme was going to be ball control. AJ McCarron looked good on the Bengals first possession. A good mix of run and pass consumed 7:34 of the first quarter. McCarron went 5-of-8 0n the drive and ended the long march with a five yard TD pass to A.J. Green. The Bengals started the night’s scoring and got up 7-0.
Coming into the game, the question was whether Brock Osweiler could deal with the pass rush of the Bengals. The answer was clear on the Broncos first possession. After a couple of fouls by the Bengals defense, they settled down and started the blitz assault. Carlos Dunlap swooped in on Osweiler and delivered the first sack of the night. The Cincinnati defense was setting the tone for the game.
McCarron and the Bengals took over again and provided a carbon copy of the opening drive. A steady drive, peppered with runs and timely passes, kept the Denver defense off-balance. Not known for his scrambling or speed, McCarron scrambled to keep the defense honest. After McCarron completed a pass to A.J. Green for 12 yards, to keep the drive alive, Mohamed Sanu ran around the left side of the line for another touchdown. Once more, the Bengals held the ball for 13 plays and marched 90 yards.
After a three-and-out by the Broncos, the Bengals got the ball looking for another chance to score. The drive started out well but ended with Mike Nugent missing a 45-yard field goal.
The Broncos took over and Oswieler finally got the offense moving. As the Bengals tried to blitz, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick blew a coverage call and allowed Emmanuel Sanders to get behind the defense. The result was a 35-yard reception. Kirkpatrick was able to get back and touch the receiver down. Denver was able to finally convert a drive into points. They managed a field goal to cut the score.
Cincinnati had three good drives to end the first half up 14-3.
Denver made the necessary adjustments at halftime and came out with a new attitude. Using an up-tempo approach, the Broncos attacked the Bengals and denied the defense an opportunity to substitute. Osweiler was able to keep the drive going for 11 plays. The result was an 81 yard march that pulled them closer. With an eight-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos sliced the Bengals lead to 14-10.
Both teams showcased their fierce defenses in the third quarter and forced punts. The game was finally living up to the heavyweight battle that was predicted. It was starting to look like the winner would be the last team standing with no errors on defense or turnovers from the offense.
Denver eventually figured out they were in a game with playoff implications and took it to the Bengals defense. Taking over with good field position, the Broncos only took two plays to go 52 yards. C.J. Anderson broke free, on the second play, for a 39-yard scamper down the left sideline. The Broncos took the lead 17-14.
The drama continued as the Bengals drove down the field needing to tie the game. Mike Nugent atoned for his miss earlier and connected on a 52-yard field goal. The Bengals knotted the score.
Denver drove the length of the field and had a chance to win but Brandon McMamus shanked a 45-yard field goal and the game went into overtime.
After winning the coin toss, Denver navigated the Bengals’ defense and used a 14-play drive to score another field goal. That would be all they needed. On the ensuing Bengals drive, AJ McCarron mishandled the snap from center. There was a scramble for the loose ball. DeMarcus Ware recovered for the Denver win.
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