Broncos are forced to fight for their fifth victory.
The Broncos started the game strong taking a 17-3 lead early in the third quarter when Trindon Holliday returned the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
But then the Bengals offense began to get going. Quarterback Andy Dalton hooked up with A.J Green for a ten yard touchdown and Peyton Manning threw back to back interceptions.
Suddenly they gritty Bengals took a 20-17 lead.
Then Peyton Manning returned to form. He drove the Broncos offense 80 yards to a touchdown, and then following a Champ Bailey interception, 46 yards for another and the Broncos managed to put away the pesky Bengals.
The win makes the Broncos 5-3 on the season and raised their winning streak to three games. Denver has a full game lead atop the AFC West over the 4-4 San Diego Chargers.
The Bengals lost their fourth game in a row and the loss drops them to 3-5 on the year.
Let's take a look at the Broncos final game grades and evaluations.
Broncos 31 Bengals 23
Overall Game Grade: B-
Manning looked sharp throughout most of this game but he did throw two interceptions. The first one on a quick slant going into the end zone could be blamed on wide receiver Eric Decker. Manning threw the ball to a spot and Decker allowed the defender to fight through him and make the pick. The second interception was an overthrow and looked to be the result of Manning trying to do to much.
Still, he finishes the day 27/35 for 291 yards with three touchdowns and the two INTs. And when Denver had to have a drive Manning was extremely sharp. The Broncos converted 9/14 third downs and still managed to score 31 points and get the win.
4th Quarter: A
Another sharp drive by Manning. He throws a dart to Brandon Stokley to convert a big third down and then he throws a precise back shoulder fade to Eric Decker for a four yard touchdown.
Manning isn't quite ready to go away. He drives the Broncos 80 yards going four for four passing and hits tight end Joel Dreessen for a one yard touchdown.
Deep in their own territory Manning throws an ill advised pass to Eric Decker that is intercepted again. Manning threw a the deep ball to Decker but Cincy cornerback Terrence Newman went and got it.
3rd Quarter: C-
Big drive for Peyton Manning following the Cincinnati touchdown. The Bengals defense is stuffing the Bronco running game. Manning is going to have to move this team. Manning throws an interception when he thinks Eric Decker will slant hard to the end zone but Decker stops. Manning had been six for seven on the drive up until that point on the drive.
2nd Quarter: B-
Manning finishes the first half 15/20 for 160 yards with one touchdown.
Manning and the offense have now gone two straight drives without generating much of anything.
Manning threw a beautiful 45 yard pass down the left sideline to Demaryius Thomas who makes the catch and is tripped up. Great pass. Manning connects with Eric Decker for a 13 yard touchdown.
1st Quarter: A
Two dropped passes on the second drive bite Manning. He has been accurate but he cant catch it for them.
Peyton Manning is once again off to a hot start. He has hit five of his first six passes as the offense drove down the field and kick a field goal.
Overall Game Grade: C+
The offense struggled early. Aside from the two Peyton Manning interceptions they had trouble running the football all day. They finished the game with just 68 yards rushing.
Yet they did manage to score when they had to and still put up 31 points on the road when they weren't playing particularly well.
4th Quarter: B+
Following the Bailey interception Manning hits Brandon Stokley for a huge first down. The run game has been so limited today but Willis McGahee is beginning to find some small holes and he is running hard. And now he breaks a 12 yard run inside the Cincinnati 4 yard line. Clutch drive here by the offense. Decker catches a four yard touchdown from Manning.
Great drive by the Denver offense. Manning throws some great passes. Decker and Thomas make big plays and Manning hits Dreessen for a touchdown.
Another interception by Peyton Manning deep in their own territory. The offensive line is getting pushed backward in nearly every running situation.
3rd Quarter: D
The Denver offense once again shows signs of taking this game over. They take the ball 65 yards but Peyton Manning throws an interception in the end zone.
2nd Quarter: C
The offense has shown signs of life but they are failing to run the ball consistently (24 yards on 11 carries) and three drops by Bronco receivers have halted some drives.
Two drives fail to move much and the Broncos offensive linemen are not getting any kind of push in the run game.
This drive has been the Demaryius Thomas show. He catches two shirt passes over the middle then catches a 45 yarder from Manning. He is slow to get up after the play. Let's hope he is not injured.Thomas is back and runs a nice pick for Eric Decker who catches a 13 yard pass for a touchdown. It's only illegal if they call it.
1st Quarter: A-
Broncos are forced to punt on their second drive. Dropped passes by Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley and an offensive pass interference call against Eric Decker limit the drive.
Solid opening drive to start the game today. The Broncos converted two out of three 3rd down conversions and drove to a field goal. The offensive line gave Manning good pass protection although the run blocking needs to improve.
Overall Game Grade: B+
The defense actually rose up and helped the offense today for a change. Sure they gave up 366 yards of offense to the Bengals but they allowed just 23 points. The D sacked Bengal quarterback five times and allowed Cincinnati to convert just 5/14 on third downs. If this defense can play like they did today it will bode well for this team.
4th Quarter: B+
With the clock running down the Denver defense is playing very soft coverage. Derek Wolfe knocks down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Dumervil and Wolfe combine for a sack of Dalton and force Cincinnati to use their final timeout. The Bengals will be forced to kick a field goal.
Defense gets a tough call go against them on a holding call against Champ Bailey. Not much of a hold and it gives Cincinnati a first down. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are making things very tough on the Bengal offensive line. Three penalties limit their offense and Champ Bailey picks off Andy Dalton to end the drive.
Following the second Manning interception the Denver defense has a short field to defend. The Bengals drive the ball in for a Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis two yard touchdown.
3rd Quarter: D
The Denver defense is beginning to take some hits. The Bengals have driven for 10 points so far in the third quarter. Andy Dalton is getting hot.
Someone misses an assignment and Bengal tight end Jermaine Gresham finds himself all alone and picks up a 52 yard gain. On the next play Dalton hits A.J. Green over Champ Bailey for a 10 yard touchdown.
2nd Quarter: A
The Broncos defense has been very solid today. The Bengals have moved the ball a little but have settled for field goals twice, making just one. Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton is 13/22 for 123 yards and has been sacked three times. This defense has been close to a few interceptions. Let's hope they can grab one in the second half.
The Denver defense allows Cincinnati to go 49 yards in nine plays to kick a field goal but Bengal kicker Mike Nugent pushes it right and misses.
The Broncos allow two first downs as the Bengals start on their own six yard line but then they hold and force another punt. Another nice tackle by Rahim Moore.
Nice defensive series for the Broncos following the touchdown! Von Miller picks up his sixth sack and the defense pushes the Bengals backward. Nice tackle on a screen pass by safety Rahim Moore.
1st Quarter: B
The Bengals are on the move. A 37 yard pass to A.J. Green got it started and now the Bengals are getting their running game going. Cincinnati is now at the Bronco eight yard line. The Denver defense makes a stand and forces a field goal.
On the second drive the defense is giving up a little yardage out to midfield. But Chris Harris breaks up a third down pass attempt and nearly had an interception. The run defense is swarming and the defensive backs are playing very tight coverage.
Two nice plays on the opening drive for the Denver defense. Wesley Woodyard shut down a screen pass with a great tackle and then Tony Carter nearly had a pick six as he broke up a pass on third down.
Overall Game Grade: B
It was a conflicting day for the special teams unit. Kicker Matt Prater struggled all day to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and the Denver kick coverage allowed four returns for 114 yards. However, the punt coverage was amazing as Britton Colquitt punted three times and Denver allowed -1 yard in punt returns. Trindon Holliday's105 yard kickoff return to open the second half was a huge lift to a team that was struggling to score.
4th Quarter: B
Not much work for the special teams in this quarter but the Broncos special teams unit gets a chance to slam the door on this game as the Bengals will be kicking onside. David Bruton who has had a phenomenal day on special teams fittingly recovers the kick.
3rd Quarter: B+
Kickoff lands at the two yard line and dies, Holliday isn't sure if he should grab it. Lance Ball thinks about taking it. Ball ends up falling on it at the two. Bronco fans everywhere think they are watching a Ken Bell replay from the 1987 AFC Championship game.
Trindon Holliday shows why the Broncos picked him up returning the opening second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
2nd Quarter: B+
Another punt another great tackle by David Bruton.
A penalty on the punt return team as Tony Carter went out of bounds to block an opponent. The Broncos will start what may be their final drive of the half from their own eight yard line.
Kickoff coverage has been poor today but the punt coverage has been very good. Two returns have netted -1 yard.
Another big kickoff return. This one is by Brandon Tate for 43 yards.
1st Quarter: C+
Matt Prater hits a 43 yard field goal.
The Broncos special teams unit gives up a 36 yard return on the opening kickoff. They have to be better than that.
Overall Game Grade: A-
You have to give the coaching staff credit. They went on the road and beat a conference opponent on a day when they did not play their best football. The Bengals were up against the wall and desperate for a win but the Broncos still managed to get the win.
4th Quarter: B
It has not been easy today but the Broncos have managed to get it going once again in the fourth quarter.
3rd Quarter: C-
The Cincinnati coaching staff has made the better halftime adjustments. The Bengal offense is heating up and the defense has frustrated the high scoring Denver offense.
2nd Quarter: A-
The coaches have this team ready to play but minor mistakes have hurt. Both sides of the ball have looked sharp at times. This game will be won by the team that makes the correct adjustments at halftime and executes in the second half.
Give the coaching staff credit this team is getting better as the game wears on.
1st Quarter: B+
What is with the third down draw plays? You do know you have Peyton Manning, right?