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Broncos 28, Bengals 37: Highlights and Lowlights

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With Peyton Manning falling to 0-6 all-time against head referee Bill Vinovich, the Broncos drop to 11-4 needing just a win at home over the Oakland Raiders to secure a first round Bye in the playoffs. Here were the highlights and lowlights from Monday.

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There was plenty to talk about after the Denver Broncos 37-28 Monday Night Football letdown against the Cincinnati Bengals. The aforementioned Bill Vinovich has suffered the wrath plenty, but the Broncos players and coaches also failed to execute at several critical moments during the game. At the end of the day, the Bengals players wanted it more.

Highlights

Third Quarter. Both the offense and defense looked like a playoff team in that one 15-minute stretch. Peyton Manning was 11 of 16 with two touchdown passes. And he connected on three deep passes, including a 46-yarder to Demaryius Thomas and a 33-yarder to Emmanuel Sanders. The defense also played improved. After giving up a touchdown early in the quarter that followed three plays after an 80-yard kickoff return by Adam Jones, the defense tightened up and kept the Bengals scoreless the rest of the quarter, thanks in large part to a Von Miller fumble recovery at the 7-yard line. If only that quarter could have been repeated three more times.~Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

3rd Quarter Peyton. The Peyton Manning from the third quarter. He moved the broncos offense in the hurry up offense and the team scored three touchdowns and silenced the doubters. ~Scotty Payne

Aqib Talib. Aqib Talib playing "shut down corner" on AJ Green. That's what we pay the dude for and I'm excited to see our coaches finally use him that way. ~Sadarine

Wide Receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders give me hope that if our coaches are *crossing fingers* saving some Einstein-esque plays for the playoffs, we have the best weapons in the game. I also can only hope that the team actually believes that a 13-3 record is a curse and wanted to end 12-4 (which is the record the Broncos had when they won their first Super Bowl). That, or maybe the mafia is involved in some point shaving with our special teams unit. ~Kelly Fleming

Von Miller. Von Miller. As long as Miller is on the field I know there's hope for a momentum changing play. Monday night it was a forced fumble that was followed by a Broncos touchdown drive that made me nostalgic for last season. ~Amy Richau

Alcohol. For keeping me happy-go-lucky in the face of great annoyance. Also Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson, Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and David Bruton for being studs that night. ~Tim Lynch

Lowlights

Offensive line. Seriously, can Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady please learn how to pass block? That is the main reason why I drank so much alcohol during the game. This is a major concern this late in the season. In fact, I'd say a Super Bowl is about a 15% possibility given how horrendous the offensive line is right now. Scary thought for a likely #2 seed. Oh and, Bah Humbug. ~Tim Lynch

Bill Vinovich. With a beautiful throw down the right sideline, Manning and Demaryius Thomas connect on a 50-yard play to put the Broncos into field goal position.

Except this is Bill Vinovich we're talking about. The same flag-throwing SOB that cost the Broncos several huge plays against Baltimore in the playoffs two years ago. The Home Team had to manufacture a stop so Thomas was flagged for a facemask, nullifying the gain and making it 3rd and a bagillion.

If Vinovich or his crew make it to the postseason, Broncos fans better pray he does not officiate our game, it's a disaster waiting to happen. ~Bronco Mike

Tackling. We are really feeling the effects of losing Nate Irving, Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. According to ProFootballFocus, the Broncos had nine missed tackles on defense and five on special teams. But those missed tackles resulted in huge yardage for the Bengals – 208 kick return yards and 207 rushing yards. So much for the No. 1 run defense. ~Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

Manning in all other quarters. The Manning in the first half and forth quarter. 4 interceptions, bad decisions and just overall bad play. Manning looks human and old. ~Scotty Payne

Injuries. I said at the beginning of the season our lack of depth at LB would be a big problem for us and lo and behold here we are with horrid LB play costing us tons of yards and points at the end of the season. Johnson and Davis are playing their tails off, but they just aren't starting quality NFL LBs from what I see. ~Sadarine

Special Teams. I am officially in full-on panic mode anytime an opposing team runs back anything. McManus will need to kick it into the stands to ease this panic. ~Amy Richau

Lack of Preparation. The lack of preparation was apparent in this game. The Bengals were out-coached, plain and simple. Manning gives the Bengals credit where it's due: "We had a lot of three-and-outs early in the game and we never got into much of a flow. Give them a lot of credit. They out-executed us there." While I do think poor refereeing changed the outcome of the game, the Broncos should have prevented that from being a factor in the first quarter. It just looked like the Bengals wanted it more. ~Kelly Fleming

The silver lining

There are many silver linings, most of which were covered in today's Horse Tracks. First and foremost, we will not have to worry about this 13-win curse thing at least and second is something I tweeted about. Here's to another four game winning steak, Broncos Country!

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