CINCINNATI --Yes, Sunday marked Trevor Siemian's first regular-season game on the road.
It just didn't look that way.
Displaying the unruffled demeanor of a quarterback who had seen everything the game had to offer, Siemian shook off a pair of near-interceptions and a problematic Bengals pass rush to carve up Cincinnati's defense in the fourth quarter, completing 9 of 10 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns to cap a 312-yard day and lead the Broncos to a 29-17 win at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
The final 55 yards of Siemian's sizzling day came via a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas that represented a perfect summation of how an offense exploits a mismatch. Thomas was lined up against Chris Lewis-Harris, who had just checked in after Adam Jones was injured. Seeing this mismatch, Thomas ran a go route and got past Lewis-Harris, at which point Siemian dropped in the deep connection for the score.
When the call came in from the sideline, Siemian's intent was clear.
"He said it in the huddle, 'Man, if I put this up, are you going to make a play?'" running back C.J. Anderson recalled. "DT [Thomas] told him, 'Yeah.' Next thing you know, we've got six."
With touchdown passes of 41 and 55 yards, Siemian answered any lingering questions about his ability to go deep. And the Broncos and Siemian proved their road mettle once again.
"We showed we can be versatile," Anderson said. "We showed that we can be the offense that we said we wanted to be. We showed that with a strong running game and two top-10 receivers, and a young quarterback, if we keep him on his feet, we can make plays, and we did that."
And those plays led to a statistically perfect fourth quarter, with a 158.3 passer rating that allowed the Broncos to pull away for their eighth consecutive win dating back to last December.
A look back at how the three keys played out in the Broncos' win:
1. GET BETTER IN THE RED ZONE
The Broncos came into the game averaging 3.83 points per red-zone possession, ranking 27th in the league in that metric. The Bengals were one spot worse.
But Denver's offense improved Sunday, overcoming an early failure in a goal-to-go situation with two touchdowns in their next two red-zone forays. A red-zone stop for the defense in the final minute punctuated the win and provided the final margin.
Most importantly, the Broncos had no giveaways inside the Bengals' 30-yard line after having four turnovers inside the opponent's 30 in Weeks 1 and 2.
- STOP THE RUN FIRST**
Unfortunately for the Broncos, this was the first area in which the Bengals gashed them.
Jeremy Hill gashed the Broncos for 65 yards on the Bengals' first series of the game, including 50 on a single gallop off the left side that set up his touchdown run one play later. Hill had more yards on that series than he did in the first two games combined (53), and the Bengals continued to pound away at the Broncos throughout the first half, racking up 104 yards on 17 carries before a half-ending kneeldown.
But after halftime, the Broncos tightened up against the run, allowing the Bengals just 40 yards on 11 carries. Twenty-five of those yards came on two Dalton scrambles as the Broncos were a brick wall against handoffs to Hill and Giovani Bernard after halftime.
"We had to load the box a little bit and try to force them to throw a little bit," said CB Chris Harris Jr. "But that's the reason why we started stuffing the run. We just had to add an extra guy in that box."
Not coincidentally, the Broncos held the Bengals to just a single field goal after halftime.
3. PROTECT THE FOOTBALL, AND TAKE IT AWAY
The Broncos lost one fumble, but it didn't prove costly, thanks to the efforts of their defense.
Demaryius Thomas' fumble early in the first quarter had the potential to be a game-turning play, as the Bengals took possession at the Denver 37, needing just one modest gain to get into range of a field goal that would put them in front. But Shane Ray led a swarming pass rush that brought down Andy Dalton for sacks on the next two plays, and by the time the Bengals surrendered the football on a punt, Cincinnati had lost 16 yards.
It was reminiscent of the defense's overtime stand in Cleveland last October, when an interception off Peyton Manning gave the Browns possession at the Denver 39-yard line, and the defense promptly pushed them back and out of field-goal range.
The Broncos finished the game with a plus-1 turnover margin, with Shiloh Keo's recovery of an Adam Jones fumble forced by Zaire Anderson leading directly to the Broncos' first touchdown of the game three plays later.
A look at the Broncos' 29-17 win over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless noted).