Broncos top Bengals 24-22 for Fox’s 1st Denver winBy ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer Monday, Sep 19, 2011
The Broncos lost two more key players Sunday but held on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-22 for coach John Fox’s first win in Denver.
The Broncos (1-1) came into the game with five starters sidelined, including Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd(notes), plus two more expected starters who were hurt in the offseason and are still on the mend.
By the second quarter, they’d also lost rookie tight end Julius Thomas(notes) (high ankle sprain) and wide receiver Eddie Royal(notes) (pulled groin), forcing them to line up Tebow, the at-once popular and polarizing backup quarterback, as a slot receiver on several snaps.
Next man up? How about last man standing?
Orton threw two touchdown passes to Decker, who atoned for a big fumble with nine receptions for 113 yards in his first career start, and Willis McGahee(notes) ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in his heaviest workload in three seasons.
The Bengals (1-1) were stopped twice in the final minutes by a defense that was missing perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey(notes), top tackler D.J. Williams and 2009 NFL sacks king Elvis Dumervil(notes).
“It’s one of those things where everybody has to rally,” Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said. “The coaches adjusted quickly and did a great job on offense, managed through that. We had a quarterback play receiver. We’re down to two tight ends, so Russ Hochstein(notes) had to play tight end. Eric Decker stepped up and had two TDs, Kyle played good.
“The defense really shut them down on third down, unbelievable. And in the last three minutes, we stopped them twice. That was huge.”
Tebow appreciated the opportunity to get onto the field even though he lined up wide and not under center.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team,” he said.
Orton said he wouldn’t hesitate to throw it to Tebow, “but we were never in one of those situations.”
“I will say this: He’s a very competitive guy; a very mentally tough guy,” Fox said. “He’s got excellent football character, so he can probably line up a lot of different places.”
Bengals rookie Andy Dalton(notes) bounced back from a bruised right wrist in the opener to throw for 332 yards. He hit fellow rookie A.J. Green(notes) 10 times for 124 yards and Jerome Simpson(notes) four times for 136 yards.
After scoring on four straight possessions, the Bengals stalled at midfield twice in the closing minutes.
Rather than try a 53-yard field goal, the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 36 even though they were 1-for-11 on third-down conversions. Green sneaked into the right flat, but Robert Ayers(notes) sniffed out the naked bootleg and drove Dalton into the ground as his pass fell incomplete.
“It was the best decision I could make at that point” was all Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had to say about not sending out kicker Mike Nugent(notes), who was good from 45, 37 and 23 yards in Denver’s thin air where Sebastian Janikowski(notes) tied the NFL record last week with a 63-yarder.
Cincinnati got the ball back at its 5 with 2:25 left and no timeouts remaining.
The Bengals reached midfield at the minute mark, but nickel back Jonathan Wilhite(notes) sacked Dalton. Then another backup, Wesley Woodyard(notes), made a diving deflection of a pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham(notes).
That brought up fourth-and-19 from the Bengals 43, and Dalton’s desperation pass went out of bounds with 23 seconds left.
Notes: McGahee’s 28 carries were the most by a Broncos RB since Ruben Droughns had 28 against Oakland on Nov. 28, 2004. … The Bengals lost WR Jordan Shipley(notes) to a left knee injury. … Denver P Britton Colquitt(notes) had a career-best 51-yard net average despite having an 82-yarder called back by penalty.
Connect with AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton at http://twitter.com/arniestapleton.