The Denver Broncos had a lot on the line entering Monday night in Week 16. Playing at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Broncos had not yet clinched a playoff spot. With a win, the Broncos could earn that trip to the postseason and put themselves in great position for a first-round bye in the playoffs.
They achieved that victory over the Bengals in overtime by a score of 20-17. It wasn’t easy as the Broncos entered the half down 14-3. They came out with a different look on both sides of the ball, and this difference helped secure the win.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak knew the team had to adjust after halftime.
“We talked at halftime. ‘Hey, we’ve had some struggles in the second half. It’s time to play the best second half we’ve played all year,’ and we did that tonight. So very proud of our guys, how we battled.” Kubiak concluded, “We’ve really found some explosion as a football team at times here in the last couple weeks, and we’ll stay positive and see if we can find it for four quarters. But very proud of our team.”
The Broncos rallied in overtime to win, and now they head into the postseason for the fifth straight season.
After failing to score in the second half for three straight games, the Broncos finally had a better showing in the second half against the Bengals. The Broncos ended up outscoring the Bengals 17-3 after halftime.
Running back C.J. Anderson sparked the team with another long touchdown run. Anderson scampered 39 yards to get into the end zone for the Broncos' first third-quarter score in a whopping six weeks. This was his second scoring run of 39 yards or more this season, a mark that ranks as third-most in team history (Terrell Davis, 1998 – 4, Clinton Portis, 2003 – 3).
After the game, Kubiak talked about Anderson’s scoring play.
“I think it was a tight zone, and C.J. wound the ball back. Emmanuel did a great job blocking the corner. It wasn't a crack toss type play. It was more of a zone-type play. Even though we went to our hurry-up, we didn't run away from the run game.” Kubiak emphasized, “I thought [Offensive Coordinator] Rick [Dennison] did a great job tonight handling that, keeping us patient and making sure that we continue to stay with what we do.”
It’s remarkable to note the Broncos only played with the lead for 4:49, while the Bengals played with the lead for over 41 minutes.
Kings of Overtime
The Broncos seem comfortable playing in overtime. They have the most regular-season overtime wins in NFL history, and they extended number that to 28 victories on Monday night. Their overall record in overtime is 28-17-2 (.617 winning percentage).
Three times this year, the Broncos have come back to win a game after trailing by 14 or more points. That leads the NFL, and two (Week 16 vs. Bengals, Week 12 vs. New England Patriots) of those three victories ended up going into overtime. The other game (Week 2 at Kansas City Chiefs) was headed to overtime until a late score by the Broncos defense.
Kubiak knows his players have a great belief in themselves if the game goes to extra time.
“They know what they're capable of. We do have to go find the consistency, but we have shown some flashes of being able to do that. We're going to keep working on the negatives that aren't happening, but we're going to stay positive and battle. We feel very confident in the direction that we're headed.”
The three overtime victories this year tie a team record for the most in a season. With Tim Tebow at quarterback in 2011, the Broncos also won three games in overtime.
In 2015, the Broncos have outgained their opponents 178 to minus-20. Simply put, the Broncos are the kings of overtime.
The Broncos are now the second seed in the AFC, and with a win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 17 they can lock up a bye week to start the playoffs. Getting a bye week would be incredibly important for the Broncos as they look to get key players healthy and back in the lineup.
With a win over the Chargers, the Broncos will also keep the Chiefs at bay and win their fifth straight AFC West title. The Chiefs had secured a playoff spot before the Broncos with their win on Sunday over the Cleveland Browns. After starting the season 1-5, the Chiefs have rolled off nine victories in a row. They are arguably the hottest team in the AFC, and there’s still a chance they can win the AFC West if the Broncos stumble in Week 17.
Kubiak knows how big it is for the team to beat the Chargers and secure another division title.
“First off, getting into the playoffs in the National Football League is a hell of an accomplishment. It's hard to do. Once you get there, it's about how you play, not really where you play, but you're right. I mean we've got a great opportunity this weekend.”
Kubiak continued, “It's going to be a very quick turnaround after a five-quarter football game. It's going to be very tough on us physically. I've got to get them ready to go, but they understand that. They didn't want a lot of atta-boys tonight. They're ready to go to work next week. I could feel that already.”
There’s a chance the Broncos could get the top seed in the AFC. If they win and the Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins, then the playoffs in the AFC will go through the Mile High City.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.