Denver Dismantled: Five Game-Changing Plays from the Broncos-Steelers Showdown
This game was supposed to be a favorable matchup for Denver, however, Pittsburgh's "D" made the Broncos' offense look incompetent and "Big" Ben Roethlisberger punished Denver's defense with his three passing touchdowns.
Here are five plays that made the difference in this AFC showdown:
1. Tyrone Carter's Pick Six
It was the third play of the second quarter.
The Broncos had the ball, 1st-and-10, on their own 42 yard line.
Kyle Orton dropped back and checked through his progressions until he decided to dump it off to running back, Knowshon Moreno, crossing short over the middle of the field.
Orton led Moreno by too much and Steelers' player, Tyrone Cater, stepped in front of Moreno, intercepted the ball, and returned it 48 yards for the touchdown.
This put the Steelers up 7-3 and damaged the morale of the now trailing Broncos who had held Pittsburgh to only two first downs in the first quarter.
2. Jabar Gaffney's Drop on Third Down
On the following possession after Pittsburgh's interception return, the Broncos appeared to be poised for another scoring drive.
It was 3rd-and-five, on the Steelers' 39 yard line. Kyle Orton threw left to Jabar Gaffney at the sideline for what appeared to be a first down.
Then, as Gaffney was falling out of bounds, the ball was jarred loose by Pittsburgh's defender and it was ruled an incomplete pass.
Denver coach, Josh McDaniels, challenged the play, but the ruling on the field was confirmed. The Broncos ended up going for it on fourth down and converted the first down.
However, there was a holding penalty on the play and Denver was forced to punt.
If Gaffney had been able to secure the ball, the Broncos could have scored instead of ending their drive and being forced to punt.
A score on this drive would have swung the momentum in Denver's favor as they headed into halftime. But, instead they headed into halftime down 7-3 without giving up a single score to the Steelers' offense.
3. Robert Ayers' Fumble Recovery Touchdown
On the opening possession of the third quarter, Pittsburgh had just completed a pass for a first down.
Then on a 1st-and-10, as Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, Kenny Peterson strip sacked "Big Ben".
Broncos' rookie linebacker, Robert Ayers, picked up the loose ball and ran it to the house 54 yards for the score.
This put Denver up 10-7 and the game began to look favorable for the Broncos and their fans.
4. Rashard Mendenhall's 24 Yard Run
After the Broncos scored to go up 10-7, Pittsburgh opened up the playbook and quickly marched down the field and scored in only four plays.
The pivotal play in this drive was the second play of the drive.
Rashard Mendenhall took the hand off from Roethlisberger and sprinted up the right side of the field for 24 yards.
This seemed to set a precedent for the rest of the game. From that point on, Denver seemed unable to tackle any of the Steelers' running backs before they gained substantial yardage.
Pittsburgh would go on to score two plays later on a short pass to Hines Ward and take the lead 14-10.
5. Mike Wallace's 25 Yard Touchdown Reception
Now in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh still up 14-10, Kyle Orton was intercepted by Troy Polamalu. This gave the Steelers the ball on Denver's 25 yard line.
The Broncos hoped to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal so that they could stay within one score. A touchdown was worst case scenario.
On third down, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace connected for a 25 yard score, delivering a dagger to the hearts of Broncos' players and fans.
This put the Steelers up 21-10 and a comeback seemed unlikely for the Broncos.
Which ended up being true.
The Broncos lost 28-10 and dropped their second game of the season.
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