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Bringing (Down) the House

Posted Sep 18, 2011

The Broncos defense played aggressive down the stretch to hold off the Bengals 24-22 and give Head Coach John Fox his first Bronco win.

DENVER -- With the game on the line, the Denver Broncos didn't back down.

The Broncos defense came out twice in the last five minutes of the game with the task to protect a two-point lead by keeping the Cincinnati Bengals out of field goal range. Both times the Bengals entered Broncos territory. And both times, Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen kept the Broncos attacking the Bengals instead of cautiously sitting back.

That proved to be the difference in the Broncos 24-22 win.

"That's him -- we know that he's going to stay aggressive and we're going to stay aggressive," safety Brian Dawkins said. "We're not going to be a passive defense in crunch time. That's just not going to be us. Obviously we're going to be smart about it, but we're going to continue to pressure."

The first key play came with just 3:09 left in the fourth quarter and the Broncos clinging to their 24-22 lead. The Bengals had the ball on the Broncos 36-yard line facing fourth-and-1. Cincinnati elected to go for it instead of attempting the 54-yard field and lined up in a jumbo formation with one receiver.

Quarterback Andy Dalton faked the handoff to running back Cedric Benson, but the Broncos were ready for it. Just as Dalton turned to look up field, defensive end Robert Ayers came off the edge, storming into the backfield to wrap up the quarterback as he threw the ball, causing the pass to fall harmlessly incomplete.

"The situation told us what was going to happen," Ayers said. "They've got the blocking tight end on my side and he released, so I figured it was going to be a pass. That's what (Defensive Line) Coach (Wayne) Nunnely and (Defensive Quality Control Coach) Jay Rodgers have been telling us, and I was just there to make the play. So I've got to give them the credit."

That stop gave the Broncos the ball with 3:04 left, but Cincinnati used its two remaining timeouts to stop the clock and the Broncos were forced to punt with 2:25 left. Return man Brandon Tate ran the ball out to the Bengals 30-yard line, but a holding penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Bengals 5-yard line, and it was from there that the Broncos defense prepared for one last stand.

Dalton completed a quick 22-yard pass to A.J. Green just after the two-minute warning, and the Bengals were in business at their own 40-yard line. They would gain one more first down to get into Broncos territory.

But on second-and-10 from the Broncos 48-yard line, the Broncos defense, which had been coming up big in clutch situations all afternoon -- holding Cincinnati to just 1-for-11 on third downs -- came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game.

Dalton dropped back to pass, but cornerback Jonathan Wilhite came on a delayed blitz and sacked the quarterback for 9 yards, essentially ending the game as Dalton's deep third- and fourth-down passes fell incomplete.

"I love Wilhite with that blitz," cornerback Cassius Vaughn said. "Love the tackle. It was a key moment of the game to knock them out of field goal range."

Quarterback Kyle Orton took a knee in the victory formation to give Head Coach John Fox his first win at the helm in Denver and his first mile-high Gatorade bath.

"It almost slipped my mind for a split second, but I hustled over there to get him that," Dawkins said. "He definitely deserved that. This was a tough, tough victory."

Fox is glad the win came sooner rather than later.

"I think it's great," Fox said. "I'm glad it only took two times to get one."

Before the game it looked like it would be tough for Fox to get that win Sunday, with four starters from Week 1 -- Champ Bailey, Elvis Dumervil, Brandon Lloyd and Knowshon Moreno -- out with injuries. The situation didn't get any better as receiver Eddie Royal went down with a groin strain early in the second quarter and did not return, leaving the Broncos with just two receivers for the rest of the game. With the very shallow depth, backup quarterback Tim Tebow came in as receiver on a couple plays.

So with only two receivers, Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy called a running play for Willis McGahee. And he did it again. And again.

In the end, the veteran back finished with 28 carries for 101 yards and one touchdown, which came at the end of the team's 15-play, 80-yard, 8:30-minute opening drive.

It was McGahee's first game with at least 28 carries since Dec. 16, 2007 against Miami, and the first time a Bronco had that many carries since Ruben Droughns on Nov. 28, 2004.

"Yeah, that was a long time coming," McGahee said. "The good thing about it is that while we were out there, we were having fun. I was out there getting tackled, having fun and laughing. That's the good thing about it. It was still fun, but at the end of the day we got the job done."

While McGahee was able to pound the ball time and time again, Orton found some open passing lanes and got into a rhythm with second-year receiver Eric Decker. Orton hit Decker on two touchdown passes, the first one coming early in the third quarter on a 25-yard strike that the receiver caught over the middle and outran two Bengals defenders into the end zone to give Denver a 17-3 lead.

But it was the second touchdown that gave Denver its crucial two-possession lead.

On first-and-10 from the Broncos 48-yard line early in the fourth quarter, and the Broncos lead diminished to two thanks to nine unanswered Bengals points, Orton dropped back and lofted a deep pass down the right sideline. Decker saw it, adjusted, leapt up and caught the ball in front of two Bengals defenders, who fell down on the play, allowing Decker to run the rest of the way unimpeded to the end zone to give the Broncos a 24-15 advantage.

"It was just a great throw by Kyle," Decker said. "It was a back-shoulder, adjustment throw. The guys ran into each other thank god and I was scot-free to the end zone. It was a good feeling."

In the end, Decker caught nine of Orton's 15 completions, as the quarterback finished 15-for-25 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, giving him a rating if 111.2.

For Orton, his stats were the last thing he cared about at the end of the game.

"This is one of the best wins I've ever been a part of," Orton said. "This is a great win, to handle it the way we did, to have a total team win. The defense played great, we ran the ball great, and made enough plays in the passing game to get the win."