Broncos-Bengals: Denver's Defense Shines and Stokley Saves the Day
With what seemed like the world (minus their fans) hoping to see them be blown out, the Broncos stepped up and delivered for their fans.
The analysts said that the Broncos defense was still terrible, and would be "lit up" by Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, and the rest of the Bengals offense.
Cincinnati did not score a point for the first 59 minutes and 19 seconds of the game.
The defensive line that "did not do nearly enough to improve itself over the offseason" racked up three sacks of Palmer, all by new acquisitions.
Andra Davis, Darrell Reid, and defensive captain Mario Haggan all got to Palmer.
Champ Bailey showed that he is still the best cornerback in the NFL, holding Ochocinco to 89 yards on 5 catches, and putting himself in position to perfectly read a route and tip a pass that would be intercepted by linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
Not surprisingly, Brian Dawkins led the defense with seven tackles and four assists.
The Broncos' unit held the Bengals to only 86 yards rushing, and stepped up on third down, as Cincinnati converted only five of 15 opportunities.
In the first quarter, in a stunning repeat of the snowy game in Denver two years ago, the Cincinnati holder missed a snap on what would have been an easy field goal. The ball bounced to midfield where it was recovered by the Broncos.
As good as the Denver defense looked, the offense was equally mediocre. Kyle Orton did not complete a pass until there was 1:20 left in the first quarter, when he completed a short pass to Brandon Marshall.
The Broncos were forced to punt eight times, and the offense was not very efficient.
Orton showed flashes of brilliance, including a perfect 21-yard strike to Jabar Gaffney who was wide open. Orton finished the day 17/28 for 243 yards, one touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions.
The rushing duties were split by Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno, with each player getting eight touches. Buckhalter led the team with 46 yards rushing.
Kicker Matt Prater turned in a stellar performance, hitting big field goals from 48 and 50 yards out with perfect accuracy.
The real drama came half way through the final quarter. Denver led 6-0, and was forced to punt the ball away with 6:29 left in the game.
The defense, which had held fast all afternoon, was finally overpowered as the Bengals put up an impressive 11-play, 90-yard drive to score on a Cedric Benson run with just 41 seconds left to play.
Down by one point, backed up to their own 13 yard line, things did not look good for the Broncos.
But, after holding the lead all afternoon, this team was not about to be let down in the final minute.
Orton attempted a pass to Marshall, who could not make the catch. On the next play, with just 28 seconds left, Orton attempted another deep pass to Marshall, but it was tipped high in the air by cornerback Leon Hall.
That is when something truly magical happened.
Veteran slot receiver Brandon Stokely was in perfect position to catch the ball as it came down. With no defenders around him, he did, and took off down the field.
Stokely sprinted 87 yards all the way to the Cincinnati "inch" line and tiptoed along in an effort to "waste" as much time off the clock as possible before stepping into the endzone to the elation of Broncos fans everywhere.
The two-point conversion attempt failed, however with only five seconds remaining, Carson Palmer had no choice but to throw a desperation pass that was intercepted by tight end Tony Scheffler, of all people, to end the game.
The Denver Broncos return home 1-0, with rookie head coach Josh McDaniels kicking off his tenure with the team on a very high note.
The Broncos can use this energy to prepare themselves for their home opener against the Cleveland Browns next Sunday.
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