The Broncos were missing a slew of starters for Sunday’s game with the Bengals but it didn’t stop them from finding a way past the Bengals.
It wasn’t easy, though. The Broncos gave back most of a 17-3 lead in the third quarter before Kyle Orton hooked up with Eric Decker on a 52-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. It was Decker’s second touchdown catch of the day and both of them came against Nate Clements who seemed to have trouble picking up what the receiver was trying to do on his routes. Orton’s day wasn’t perfect — he lost a fumble on a sack by Michael Johnson — but his two scoring passes and the 24-22 victory should be enough to quiet some of the Tim Tebow pot-banging that’s been going on in Denver.
Knowshon Moreno might not have as much luck holding off Willis McGahee. McGahee ran for 101 yards and a touchdown in Moreno’s absence and the Broncos were able to establish their running game much more effectively this week than they were against the Raiders. McGahee was particularly effective in close quarters. He also held up well under a heavy (28 carries) workload, something that Moreno hasn’t proven he can do in his Broncos tenure. McGahee kept the chains and clock moving long enough for the defense to hold off Andy Dalton’s second-half charge.
Dalton got off to a slow start with 52 passing yards in the first half, but he found a groove in the final 30 minutes. Dalton completed 19-of-30 passes for 280 yards and two scores in the second half and moved the ball into Broncos territory in the final minute before a Jonathan Wilhite sack sunk the Bengals chances of coming back to win the game. His big half was highlighted by an 84-yard play to Jerome Simpson and touchdown tosses to fellow rookie A.J. Green and Andre Caldwell, but the 17-3 hole the Bengals dug themselves turned out to be too large for them to overcome.
The loss stings, but Dalton’s play is a good sign for the Bengals going forward. The Broncos could find a lot to nitpick about their performance, but they should feel good about winning a game on a day that started with five injured starters and ended with two more — wide receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Julius Thomas — also in the trainer’s room.