The Denver Broncos stormed into the Dawg Pound against the Cleveland Browns this afternoon with the hopes of remaining undefeated. It was a wild roller coaster ride that had its share of ups and downs for fans of both teams who were vehemently cheering their teams on hoping for a victory.
It was easily the most heart and gut-wrenching game of the season for the Broncos who won in dramatic fashion in overtime 26-23 over the Browns.
Hart's Quick Hits
- The Broncos passing offense was stagnant throughout the entire game, but the bright spot was the running game. Ronnie Hillman had 111 yards on 20 carries and C.J. Anderson followed up with 41 yards on 11 carries. The 152 yards on the ground was the most by the Broncos this season.
- Broncos first-round draft selection Shane Ray hobbled off the field in the first half of the game and was carted to the locker room to undergo tests on his knee. According to Mike Klis, Ray has a sprained MCL.
- Peyton Manning threw his third pick-six of the year, the most he has since 2008. He ended the game 26/48 for 290 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
- The teams leading receiver was Demaryius Thomas who reeled in 10 catches for 111 yards, but had a handful of drops throughout the course of the game.
- Shaquil Barrett was all over the field and had 9 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
- The Broncos offense converted only 4 of 18 third downs.
- Denver's offense had 442 yards of total offense compared to Cleveland's 298 and edged them slightly in time of possession with 36:44 to 33:20.
The offensive line gave Peyton Manning ample time to throw the ball throughout the course of the first half, but Manning was indecisive and his throws were off. He tossed a first drive interception to Browns inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. The bright spot on the offensive side of the ball in the first half was Ronnie Hillman, who had a handful of quality runs totalling 59 yards that helped move the Broncos down the field. Unfortunately, the Broncos were were unable to capitalized off his efforts and score no points of their own in the first half.
Broncos at Browns
Broncos at Browns
Denver's offensive game plan, as I had eluded to in my scouting report, was to run the ball often. Hillman helped provide a spark on the team's first possession of the second half, but the offense fizzled away after Demaryius Thomas was unable to reel in a third and short pass from Manning.
The poor offensive output prompted Head Coach Gary Kubiak to huddle his offensive unit together and gave them verbal reaming on the sideline. But perhaps the defense took note more than anyone and on second down, Shaquil Barrett buried Josh McCown and forced a fumble and the Broncos recovered to put the Broncos on a short field to score points. After a nice catch by Thomas and run by Hillman, the offense quickly faded and displayed their ineptitude in the red zone. Ultimately, the settled for a 25 yard field goal by McManus to put Denver up 13-7 near the end of the third quarter.
With 13:33 remaining in the fourth quarter, McManus nailed another field goal after the Emmanuel Sanders is unable to reel in an on the mark pass from Manning on third and short. The Browns responded quickly, with a 47 yard play to Benjamin over safety Darian Stewart put the Browns back in business and Barnidge was able to reel in another touchdown score to bring the score to 16-14.
Another Sunday, another nailbiter, and one that was only about to get worse for Broncos Country. The tide of the game changed significantly, as Manning delivered another gift-wrapped interception that was returned for a touchdown by Dansby, who had gotten the better of him in the first quarter as well. The Browns attempted to go for two, but failed to convert, but took a 20-16 lead and silenced the Broncos fans cheering on Denver in The Dawg Pound
But just when you thought the Broncos were down and out, Manning totally redeemed himself and delivered a perfect pass to Emmanuel Sanders who blazed down the field the distance for a 75 yard touchdown that put Denver up 23-20.
As the game entered its final moments, the Browns once again roamed down the field and with less than two minutes left in the game were ten yards from beating the Broncos, but the teams defense held strong and forced Cleveland to only get three points and tie the game with just 90 seconds to go in regulation. Denver did their best two minute drill, but overtime came after a Sanders catch on the field was overturned and ruled incomplete which took the Broncos out of field goal range.
At the start of overtime, the Broncos got the ball and Manning threw his third interception of the game and the Browns had the ball in Denver's territory — but Denver's ferocious defense sacked McCown twice and the Broncos were able to get the ball back. Much to the chagrin of Browns fans, the Broncos, on the legs of Hillman and C.J. Anderson put together a game winning winning drive and McManus kicked the Broncos into victory with a 34 yard field goal.
Once again, the defense bailed out a poor offensive showing due to an Aqib Talib pick six that ended up putting the Broncos up 10-0 in the first half.
After the Talib pick-six, the remainder of the first half for both teams was very quiet. With a few minutes left at the end of the second quarter, the Broncos drove into field goal range, but kicker Brandon McManus had his first miss of the year on a 51 yard attempt with 18 seconds to go in the first half that had enough leg, but was wide left.
To start the second half, the Browns quickly moved down the field and took advantage of the Broncos defense. A few big pass plays to Gary Barnidge and Andrew Hawkins coupled with some quality runs had them in the red zone within minutes. They made a huge statement when quarterback Josh McCown was able to hit tight end Gary Barnidge for an 11 yard touchdown, who beat inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to bring the score to 10-7.
The defense was quick to rebound after their initial second half effort and quickly forced the Browns into a three-and-out, and their overtime effort was particularly powerful. The Browns were in borderline field goal range when they had the ball for their only possession in overtime; the Broncos defense pushed them back to set up the offense for the game-winning drive.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but the Broncos are now 6-0 heading into their big time showdown against the Green Bay Packers and have a stranglehold lead on the AFC West.