CINCINNATI — For the first time since the start of the 2016 season, the Broncos have won three consecutive games.
That's what matters, even if it wasn't always pretty.
The first half was an unpleasant reminder of previous struggles on the road, but the Broncos' second-half performance was a display that signified the Broncos may now be a different team.
A team that may be poised to make a late-season push for the playoffs.
Fueled by three more takeaways and 17 second-half points, the Broncos overcame their slow start to earn a 24-10 win over the Bengals.
The first half — a 7-3 slog during which Broncos lost Chris Harris Jr. to injury — was just a distant memory after the defense took over the game in the second half and the offense made timely plays.
These were the moments and players that mattered in the Broncos' win over the Bengals.
Through the Broncos' first six possessions — excluding a kneeldown to close the first half — they struggled to move the ball and score points. Denver opened the game with three punts and a missed field goal before piecing together a touchdown drive near the end of the first half. But a Cincinnati field goal to end the first half and a Denver three-and-out on the team's first possession of the second half gave the Broncos little room for error. As punter Colby Wadman booted the ball away with 12:18 to play, Denver held just a 7-3 lead. A Bengals miscue, though, helped the Broncos break the game open.
Cincinnati's returner, Alex Erickson, muffed the punt, and long snapper Casey Kreiter emerged from the pile with the football. Safety Dymonte Thomas was officially credited with the recovery, which set up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Courtland Sutton two plays later.
Justin Simmons intercepted Jeff Driskel on the next drive and Phillip Lindsay broke off a 65-yard touchdown to push Denver's lead to 18 points.
The Bengals never truly challenged again — and the momentum all swung on the muffed punt.
Every week, running back Phillip Lindsay gives Broncos fans another reason to rewatch a play over and over. This week, Lindsay broke a 65-yard run midway through the game to give the Broncos a three-score lead — and he showed off his speed in the process. Once the Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate got to the left edge, no defender was going to catch him. Lindsay finally slowed once he arrived in the end zone to tally his second touchdown of the afternoon and the longest play of his career.
At this point in the season, it would be a surprise if Phillip Lindsay wasn't on this list. For his Week 13 performance, Lindsay tallied 19 carries, 157 yards and two touchdowns. Lindsay now has five touchdowns over the last three games, all Broncos wins. He also surpassed 1,000 all-purpose yards on Sunday, which makes him just the eighth rookie in team history to hit that mark. Safety Justin Simmons set up the second Lindsay touchdown by intercepting an errant Driskel throw. Simmons has now recorded three interceptions through 12 games. His previous career high in a season was two picks. Simmons also totaled nine tackles. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton also deserves a nod for continuing to post solid numbers in his new starting role. Sutton led the team with 85 receiving yards on four catches. He also caught a third-quarter touchdown pass. Shelby Harris continued a career-best stretch by recording 1.5 sacks. Harris had never before had a multi-sack game in his career. Von Miller also tallied 1.5 sacks. He has recorded a sack in seven consecutive games, which ties the longest streak of his career. Miller now has 12.5 sacks on the season.
For the first time since before a Week 5 loss, the Broncos are back at .500. And at 6-6, the Broncos are squarely back in the wild-card race. The team will almost certainly continue to take a week-by-week approach — after all, it's worked well over the last three weeks — but the Broncos are inching closer to talking about January football. All week, Head Coach Vance Joseph talked about how 5-6 felt like "nothing." In a game they had to win, the Broncos are now a step above nothing. And while the turnover margin (3-1), rushing yards (218) and penalty ratio (12-7) all help tell the story, none of those numbers matter as much as .500.