CINCINNATI -- The wind howled around Paul Brown Stadium, reaching gusts of 35 miles per hour at times on the otherwise balmy late-autumn afternoon. The goalposts swayed. Footballs darted and fluttered through the air, whether passed or kicked.
And all of that doesn't even account for the Broncos losing Chris Harris Jr., Derek Wolfe and Josey Jewell to injuries, adding to an already lengthy list of battered Broncos.
It was a day to get back to basic, power football. It was a day for the Broncos offense to focus on what it did best. It was a day to run, and feed the football to rookie running back Phillip Lindsay.
Lindsay tore through and around Cincinnati's beleaguered defense for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns. The defense complemented Lindsay's work by cranking up the pressure. It sacked Cincinnati quarterback Jeff Driskel four times, hit him on five other occasions and forced him into hurried throws that eased the burden on a secondary missing two of its top three cornerbacks.
That was the Broncos' equation for success Sunday, as they ground out a 24-10 win over the Bengals to increase their winning streak to three games while remaining just one game out of a playoff spot.
Why did the Broncos win Sunday?
Because they turned takeaways into points
The Broncos relied upon winning the turnover battle in the previous two games, and they pulled it off again Sunday, with two takeaways in a 2:31 span setting up a quick 14-0 run after halftime.
The first, a muffed Alex Erickson punt return that Dymonte Thomas recovered at the Cincinnati 33-yard line, set up a 30-yard Case Keenum-to-Courtland Sutton touchdown pass two plays later.
Four plays after the second takeaway -- a Justin Simmons interception of a pass that Jeff Driskel optimistically lobbed into the red zone -- Lindsay galloped 65 yards behind blocks from Garett Bolles and Billy Turner for the touchdown that extended Denver's lead to 21-3.
Simmons, who was working at slot cornerback as well as base-package safety following Harris' injury, was in perfect position for the pass -- which lingered in the air for longer than some punts. All that time made Simmons' task harder.
"I thought it was too much time. I was uncomfortable," Simmons said. "For a minute I thought I was going to throw my hand up and just fair-catch it. It was a lot of time. The ball hung up in the air. I think [Driskel] felt pressure and just threw it off his back foot."
But Simmons still reeled in the pass, setting up the Broncos' third touchdown of the day.
Running back Royce Freeman also fumbled in the third quarter for the Broncos' first giveaway since Week 9, but in the fourth quarter, Bradley Chubb forced a fumble of his own, stripping the football from Driskel. Chubb eventually recovered, allowing the Broncos to salt away the game.
Because the Broncos successfully played the field-position game
Lindsay's 6-yard second-quarter touchdown run -- the first score of the game -- was set up by Denver's decision to accept a third-down holding penalty.
With the Bengals facing third-and-29, Giovani Bernard ran 17 yards on a draw play, setting up what would have been fourth-and-12 from their 38-yard line. Bengals center Billy Price drew a downfield holding penalty, and the Broncos chose to accept it, putting the Bengals in third-and-35 from their 19-yard line, rather than decline the penalty and take the fourth down.
Bernard gained 4 yards on the replay of the down, effectively turning fourth-and-12 into fourth-and-31. That 19-yard difference helped the Broncos start at their 45-yard line after the ensuing Kevin Huber punt, and they turned their best field position of the day to that point into their first score, marching 55 yards in eight plays to Lindsay's touchdown.
Because Cincinnati short-circuited its efforts with penalties
With quarterback Andy Dalton on injured reserve, left tackle Cordy Glenn inactive and wide receiver A.J. Green lost for the game after a first-half injury, the Bengals had scant margin for error. They proceeded to use it -- and much more -- by burying themselves with 100 yards on 10 penalties, while the Broncos committed seven penalties for 60 yards.
One key infraction came early in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals had momentum after a 9-yard Joe Mixon catch-and-run on third-and-4, which moved them to the Denver 39-yard line. But before their next snap, Matt Lengel came up before the snap, drawing a false-start penalty.
Cincinnati stalled and then went backwards, eventually punting after Todd Davis clobbered Bernard at the 47-yard line on third-and-13 for a 5-yard loss.
Another key penalty against Cincinnati took place on what became the Bengals' first scoring drive of the day, a 58-yard drive in the final moments of the first half. The Bengals settled for a Randy Bullock field goal after their chance for a touchdown evaporated when Driskel committed an intentional-grounding penalty.
Because the Broncos won the middle of the game
The Broncos came into Sunday with a minus-44 scoring margin in the second and third quarters, the sixth-worst in the league. During their previous two games, their opponents scored 13 and 14 consecutive points during long mid-game stretches, forcing the Broncos to play come-from-behind football.
Sunday, that wasn't necessary. After a scoreless first quarter, the Broncos scored 21 of the next 24 points, building a lead that the Bengals never challenged in the final period.