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Kicking and screaming win exactly what Broncos needed

Was it pretty? Heck no. But it was a character-defining win for Denver when it needed most.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

John Elway wanted kicking and screaming.

For better or worse, the Denver Broncos have delivered. In a big way. That might give all of Broncos Country a heart attack by the time the season ends, but this team never gives up. The moment is never too big.

Wait, the Broncos? Yes. The Broncos.

It was by no means pretty, but it's a character-check win and that's what teams need this time of year. That's how you win in the playoffs, and the 20-17 overtime win by the Broncos on Monday Night over the Cincinnati Bengals was a playoff win.

Unlike in year's past, Denver get didn't caught off guard.

Not by a horrid first half - by the whole team.

Or a huge fumble by C.J. Anderson.

Or a total shank by Brandon McManus.

Or more injuries (especially at safety).

The Broncos never lost confidence in themselves or each other. They didn't quit.

"My message after the game: 'That was one hell of a second half of football,'" Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said after the game.

That is a testament to the coaches and players. Not one aspect won this game for Denver. The team won this game. The defense stepped up and shut down the Bengals in the second half. Brock Osweiler played with poise, made calculated risks with his throws and led the offense on two touchdown drives, the should have been game-winning field goal at the end of regulation and the game-winning field goal in OT. The two sides complimented each other.

It was the first defining moment in the career of Osweiler. As for who will play next week in final game of the regular season against the San Diego Chargers, there's no chance a switch is made and it was clear after the game that won't happen. Not after that signature win.

Anderson proved again he embodies the kicking and screaming mantra for Denver. Unlike the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, his play rubbed off on the rest of his offensive teammates. It was contagious, and it fed the defense to step up and continue to make plays.

That's not to say it wouldn't be nice for Denver to play a complete game. The one time the Broncos did that this season they whopped the Green Bay Packers. But as noted above, this is the type of game Denver needed. To prove it could win a game like this against a great opponent. Against a playoff team.

Kubiak said in training camp that the season is about memory. You do things to know and remember when they come about later in the season.

After Monday Night, Denver now is 3-0 when trailing by 14 points. The most recent prior to the win over the Bengals was against the New England Patriots. After two-straight embarrassing games, the Broncos needed this.

And Denver finally made adjustments at halftime. Of course, execution helped in that regard.

The point is the Broncos won this game as a team. It wasn't about one coach, player or play. The players fed off each other and what each unit was able to do. The coaches continued to call the plays that gave their players the chance to succeed.

But the big thing is they weren't caught off guard or ill prepared. The moment isn't too big for this team.

Wait, the Broncos? Yes. The Broncos.

Those three wins when trailing 14-0? They all came against playoff teams. It's also their third win in overtime, which ties the team record set in 2011.

How many times in the last four years has that phrase been uttered about Denver? After the shank by McManus at the end of regulation, it seemed like same song different verse for this team. "Here we go again."

But a thought quickly entered my mind, "This isn't the same Broncos. This team won't take a knee or quit in a playoff game." Of course, that didn't help the blood pressure, but it's true.

This isn't the same Broncos.

Now Denver has a chance to win the division and earn that all-important first-round bye.

Elway said he wanted kicking and screaming. He's finally got a team that delivers.