Welcome to week 3 of "Repeating Business". I will review the Bengals game and take a gander at Sunday's challenger.
Cincinnati - The Broncos marched into Paul Brown Stadium for their first road game and early kick off time against last season's AFC North champs. Questions and worries surrounded the offense and many were bracing for a potential loss with Trevor Siemian going against one of the better defenses in the NFL. Denver started out on offense deep in their own territory thanks to Cody Latimer not kneeling in the end zone and made the mistake of running it out only to get swarmed at the 14. Siemian came out throwing, but the drive was a 3 and out. Riley Dixon punted 51 yards to the Bengal 26. The Bengals then proceeded to use Jeremy Hill to batter the defense. He accounted for 65 of the 74 yards including a 50 yard run that gashed the DL to start off the game. Hill plunged in for the TD and Mike Nugent hit the XP for a 7-0 lead.
Denver then took over and marched down the field for 14 plays thanks to a balanced mix of run and pass, assisted by Cincy defensive penalties. The Broncos got to the Bengal 2, but could not capitalize with a TD. Brandon McManus knocked in the FG to cut into the lead 7-3. The teams exchanged punts, but the momentum shifted. Dixon's punt was fielded by Adam Jones. Pacman made one move and was hit, fumbling the ball and Shiloh Keo recovered it giving the Broncos a needed break. Play was stopped to review if it was a fumble and it looked like Jones' knee was down, but the call was upheld. Denver took over at the Bengals 46. C.J. Anderson moved the ball five yards on two rushes and then we saw the unthinkable on third down. Siemian dropped back deep and sailed a pass to the end zone for a 41 yard TD bomb to Emmanuel Sanders over Jones to give the Broncos the lead 10-7. The teams again exchanged punts only to see the Bengals move the ball 62 yards thanks to some short passes and a Bradley Roby DPI on third down. Hill punched in the ball for the score to make it 14-10 Bengals. Denver responded with a 46 yard KO return by Latimer that almost went for a score if he wasn't slightly tripped by the kicker. With great field position, the Broncos marched down the field despite some offensive flags and an assist from the defense with a flag of their own. The drive was capped off with a perfect pass on the outside to Sanders to give Denver the lead. McManus' XP try was blocked and the score was 16-14 at the half.
Cincy started the second half with the ball, but was forced to punt. Jordan Norwood returned the ball to the Bronco 25. Then disaster struck the offense when Demaryius Thomas caught a pass, was flagged for OPI and fumbled in the same play that the Bengals recovered at the Denver 37. Fortunately, the defense forced a punt thanks to Shane Ray sacking Andy Dalton twice and the Brandon LaFell getting flagged for an illegal block. Denver got the ball back, but was forced to punt thanks to a sack. Cincy then took the ball to the Bronco 13 thanks to short passes and Dalton's scrambling. Fortunately, the defense stiffened and the Bengals settled for a FG to take a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Denver then responded with a drive that saw a mix of short passes and runs. Thomas made up for his false start penalty by catching a first down to keep the drive going. Bennie Fowler made his 2016 debut with a 13 yard grab and then Sanders got them to the Bengal 3. After an Andy Janovich rush to the 1, Siemian ran a perfect play action that froze the defense long enough to laser a pass to John Phillips for a TD. The Bronco attempt for two failed, but they had the lead 22-17. Cincy was forced into a 3 and out and punted to the Denver 17. With just over six minutes left and a five point lead, what would most of you fans expect? I was expecting some rushes to take time off the clock, but that didn't happen on this day. On first down, Siemain lofted a ball to another Bronco making his debut, Jeff Heuerman. Heuerman snagged the pass for a 29 yard gain to the Bronco 46. After a one yard loss by Anderson and an incomplete pass to Thomas, Broncos Country saw Siemian take a deep drop and toss a deep ball to Thomas. Thomas took the pass and ran it in for the TD. McManus knocked in the XP to make the lead 29-17. The defense got into the act by picking Dalton off on the next play, but the offense couldn't capitalize on the mistake. With just under four minutes left, the Bengals moved the ball deep into Denver territory only to turn the ball over on downs. Siemian knelt down to end the game and Denver moves to 3-0 with a 29-17 road win.
As for my impressions of the game, the first half was sloppy on both sides of the ball. The defense was getting killed against Hill and Siemian had some passing accuracy issues early in the half. Despite all of that, the Broncos had a halftime lead. The Broncos seemed much more settled and Siemian was accurate at every range after the slow start. His deep TD passes were amazing and a wonderful thing to watch. The adjustments made by the defense was a major reason that this game was a win. Jeremy Hill ran wild in the first half, but after half he was shut down and the Bengals kept passing. With this game, the league too notice that the Broncos have multiple threats and the offense is becoming what we all hoped it would. While the rushing game was stalled at a measly 52 yards, the passing game dominated the game. I would credit the Bengals D for the lack of running success more than the performance. The OL had an OK day with a lot of shuffling going on thanks to Russell Okung getting dinged up and Ty Sambrailo seeing his first action in a year. It was a great surprise to see that outcome against an expected AFC contender. At the end of the day, Denver is 3-0, leads the AFC West and now has an opportunity to get a win streak going. With that out of the way, it's time to take a glance at the next challenger......
Tampa Bay - Denver gets to travel east again, but this time it is the late game. The Buccaneers are coming off a close home loss to the Los Angeles Rams 37-32 that included a late thunderstorm delay. Tampa dominated the Rams in every possible stat except the scoreboard. The difference of the game was an early pick six by LA and a defensive stop at the end of the game as time expired. Tampa is led by Jameis Winston and is coming off a 405 yard passing day. He has a trio of receivers in Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and the ageless Vincent Jackson. Evans and Humphries both had over 100 yards receiving against the Rams so the "No Fly Zone" will have a full workload. Doug Martin is their normal starting RB, but he was out with an injury. He might be back this week but he is dealing with a hamstring injury. Charles Sims handled the rushing duties against the Rams.
For the Broncos to get another win, the offense needs to keep maturing and making plays. The Bucs defense is not the juggernaut that it was in 2002 so this could be a good opportunity to get some good rushing yards on this group. Case Keenum did not have a great stats day, but he did have a long TD pass against this D. As long as the turnovers are not there, this is a winnable game for the offense. Defensively, they need to get to and hit Winston at every chance they get. Despite the Rams having a good front 7, they only hit Winston twice the entire game. He is a bigger QB and he is able to scramble if needed. Even with all of this, he is still a young player and can be rattled easily. While they are not as strong, expect them to give the Broncos their best shot. That is all I have and GO Broncos!!!