Bengals vs Broncos: A review of the 3 keys to victory
By Emile Pierce
Week 11 brought victory for the Cincinnati Bengals and helped extend a forgettable season. Now, it’s time to take care of business.
The Cincinnati Bengals were able to pull off a victory at Sports Authority Field and stay alive in the playoff picture. By beating the Denver Broncos 20-17, the Bengals not only remain relevant for the postseason, they give a nightmare season hope. That’s not a particularly trustworthy word to use, with six games remaining on the schedule. But, a win’s a win, no matter how ugly or complete.
In order to completely look the part of a playoff contender, the Bengals need to take care of business with the Browns (Week 12) and git ‘er done against the Steelers on Monday Night Football the following week.
Yes, it’s a primetime showdown with their arch-enemy. But, it’s fitting that the game will be against the team that started the Bengals’ current spiral on January 9. Cincinnati gets a bit of a break, with Steelers OT Marcus Gilbert suspended for PED usage.
Meanwhile, the Bengals did what they had to do, in the Mile High City.
Get Denver down early
Fortunately, Cincinnati was able to get the first score and put the Broncos in catchup mode. On their first drive, it looked like the Bengals would be in serious trouble. They were only able to generate four yards. Then, on fourth down, Kevin Huber’s punt was blocked by Shaquil Barrett. Not a good start for a team trying to stay in the playoff dance.
But, the offense got a huge break when Brock Osweiler gifted Dre Kirkpatrick with an end zone interception. Dre returned the ball to the Broncos’ 1-yard line, after almost fumbling. From there, Andy Dalton and Co. took three plays to punch it in. Dalton found Tyler Kroft on a play-action pass to put six on the board. Of course, Randy Bullock missed the extra point. But, the Bengals were still ahead first. Getting the early score gave a bit of breathing room to the Cincinnati D.
Denver’s defense is one of the more respected units in the league. But, they’ve been giving up a ton of points. There are only a few weak spots that keep them from being the same D that led the Broncos to a Super Bowl in 2016. Thankfully, the Bengals found those weaknesses and exploited them.
Play solid defense
The Bengals weren’t playing the best offense in the league. But, any given Sunday can be a problem for Paul Guenther’s unit.
There were a few times when the defense look like it would bend in the direction of the Broncos. But, they pinned their ears back and manned up when it was needed.
Vontaze Burfict played like a man possessed. After coming clean on his feelings about the refs targeting him, Burfict was a beast. He ended the day with 12 tackles, 11 solo takedowns, a sack and a forced fumble. His play inspired the rest of the defense to give their all.
When he slammed into C.J. Anderson and caused him to fumble at the Denver 41-yard line, the Bengals recovered and went on to score the game-winning TD.
"“It’s always a physical game when I play Anderson because he’s like a bowling ball — you’ve got to wrap up against him,” Burfict said, via The Denver Post. “But when I saw him break through the hole that time, I thought, ‘I gotta mess him up.’ I didn’t even try to wrap up — I just put my helmet on the ball and it popped out.”"
Carlos Dunlap helped with the extreme pressure on Osweiler and had two sacks on the day. His second came with 1:49 left in the game to help seal the victory.
The Bengals’ defense was finally able to get some big stops on third down. Denver was still able to convert 12-of-21(57.1%) 3rd downs, but Cincy stopped them when it mattered.
The running game is still a train wreck. Joe Mixon ended the day with 49 yards on 20 carries. Kudos to the Bengals for sticking with the run. That scheming helped open up a few play-action gains for Dalton. In the fourth quarter, Dalton was able to sucker Von Miller with a fake to Giovani Bernard and pick up a crucial first down with his legs at the 4:09 mark of the game.
This time, Dalton and A.J. Green did hook up for the winning TD with 8:56 left on the clock. The offense went on a six-play 44-yard drive that resulted in an 18-yard score.
For the first time in a few games, the offense was able to convert on third downs to keep drives alive. Against the Broncos, the Bengals went 7-for-15 to move the chains. There are still more than few kinks to be ironed out, but the offense was able to get the job done.
Burfict summed up the performance on defense, but it can also be applied to the entire game.
"“The thing we kept saying before the game was, ‘Have faith.’ When things didn’t go our way today, we still had faith, and everybody stayed together on defense and executed.”"
Now, it’s all about taking care of business down the road.