Despite a plethora of injuries on defense, the Broncos got off to a good start to force a three and out on the Bengals to open up the game.
Teddy Bridgewater opened up the game on offense with a short pass to Courtland Sutton for five yards on first down, then a long four yard gain by Melvin Gordon that setup a third and inches. Bridgewater would sneak it for the first down from there.
Gordon gained four yards on back to back runs to setup a third and two. Bridgewater went back to Sutton on third down and the ball went right through Sutton’s hands for the drop to force Denver to punt on their opening drive. Something they have done on 11 opening drives this season.
After a quick first down, Bradley Chubb broke through the line to tackle Joe Mixon for a short loss.
Great play by Bradley Chubb to make the tackle for loss pic.twitter.com/39c915UzSg— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 19, 2021
On second and a long 10, Burrow found Tee Higgins wide open over the middle of the field to get the Bengals to the Broncos’ 39 yard line. The defense stiffened from there with Chubb batting down a third down pass attempt to bring out the field goal unit.
Bengals 3, Broncos 0.
Pat Shurmur dialed up back to back pass attempts to open up the next drive. Bridgewater found Javonte Williams on a slant on the second attempt to pick up eight yards and then Williams powered through for just enough to get pick up the first down on third and two.
Another first down incompletion led to a five yard run inside by Williams. On third and five, Bridgewater had the pocket collapse around him for the sack and another punt. The first down pass play calls seemed to be setting the Broncos up for difficulties on second and third downs early in the game.
Shurmur had a mesh concept dialed up, but no one got open before Bridgewater had rushers in his lap. pic.twitter.com/mZKDxqzO69— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 19, 2021
The Bengals were backed up on their next drive facing a third and 15 from their own five yard line. They would force another punt with just over two minutes to go in the first quarter.
On their next drive, they opened up with a run with Gordon who was stuffed and tackled for a one yard loss. Then Teddy was flushed out and threw it in the ground as the screen pass called was busted from the first second. Predictably, they would go a quick three and out from there. Shurmur doing his best Shurmuring early on in the game.
The first quarter ended with the Bengals getting a first down on a Burrow scramble outside.