DENVER --A pair of turnovers led to 13 Bengals points and a last-gasp attempt at a game-tying drive failed, dooming the Broncos to a 20-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday.
The loss, the Broncos' sixth in a row, dropped them to 3-7.
"You are who you are. It's our record," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "Tonight we had great effort. Offensively we moved the ball again, but we had two turnovers; they both led to points. That's the game again. Effort's good; guys are making plays, but you can't turn the ball over. That's the night. Can't do it."
Why did the Broncos fall?
Because the turnover trend continued**
The momentum the Broncos had early after a blocked punt by Shaquil Barrett evaporated when Cincinnati's Dre Kirkpatrick stepped in front of a Brock Osweiler pass to Cody Latimer in the end zone and returned it 100 yards, losing the ball and recovering it at the Denver 1-yard line. Although Kirkpatrick didn't score, Cincinnati capitalized three plays later on a 1-yard Andy Dalton-to-Tyler Kroft pass to take a 6-0 lead.
"Cody was going to have a touchdown, and unfortunately, a football play happened where him and the guy who was covering Emmanuel [Sanders] collided, and the football was gift-wrapped for Kirkpatrick right there," Osweiler said. "He made a great play. But bottom line, no excuses."
The second giveaway was the turning point in the game. Early the fourth quarter, Denver trailed 13-10, but had momentum after marching 31 yards from its 10-yard line on the strength of two Osweiler passes: a 13-yarder on third-and-12 to Austin Traylor and a 14-yarder near the left sideline to Jordan Taylor.
But on a second-and-8 play from the Denver 41, Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict got his helmet on the football as C.J. Anderson burst through the hole. Bengals safety Shawn Williams recovered the football at the Denver 44-yard line.
Six plays later, Dalton hit A.J. Green for an 18-yard touchdown that put the Broncos down two scores.
"Everything was going the way we wanted it going. I just -- the one time I decide to make him miss, he just put his helmet on the ball. I just can't do that to my teammates," Anderson said, his voice quivering with emotion. "It hurts me. It hurts my coaches. It puts us in bad situations.
"That's why we're sitting there with another loss -- because of me ... If I don't do that, then A.J. doesn't score. Who knows how the outcome turns. It's just on me, man. That [stuff] hurts.
Thirteen of the 20 points allowed by the Broncos came on drives that began in Denver territory because of turnovers.
The Broncos also failed to force a turnover for the fifth time in their last eight games.
"We're not getting any on defense and we're giving them up on offense," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "If you're going to give up one a game on offense, we need to go get two or three a game [on defense], like two years ago. We would get two or three [turnovers] a game, three or four sacks a game. But that's not happening."
Because the Broncos couldn't capitalize on good field position**
Denver took over in Cincinnati territory three times and emerged with just three points. One drive ended in the Kirkpatrick interception, another resulted in a three-and-out and a third finished with a Brandon McManus field goal.
The Broncos were able to consistently move the football; after a first-play penalty forced a game-opening three-and-out, they went three-and-out just once on their next 10 possessions, sustaining some solid drives. Denver also outgained the Bengals 341 yards to 190, had a 20-12 advantage in first downs and averaged 4.3 yards to Cincinnati's 3.6. But the inability to take advantage of field position proved crucial.
Because the Broncos couldn't complete the comeback
A 17-yard Osweiler-to-Demaryius Thomas touchdown brought the crowd back to life, but the Broncos weren't able to get the ball back until 1:52 remained after Cincinnati picked up three first downs, and then the offense went backward on its first two plays after it regained possession.
Two of the Bengals' three first downs on their drive after Thomas' touchdown came on penalties. The defense stiffened in Denver territory, forcing a Kevin Huber punt that resulted in a touchback, but a potential game-tying drive died after Osweiler was sacked by Carlos Dunlap for a 7-yard loss on second-and-10, putting the Broncos in third-and-17, which was too much to overcome.
"If you go back and look at that [defensive] series, we had them on two to three third downs, [but] we didn't get a stop until we were all the way [past] the 50-yard line," safety Justin Simmons said.
"We burned some timeouts, and when you look at it like that, we could have given the offense some more timeouts there at the end of the game, which could have helped our play-calling and drive a little bit."
Photos from the Broncos' Week 11 game against the Bengals. (Photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)