5 Biggest Takeaways from Denver Broncos' Week 16 Win over the Bengals
The Denver Broncos got back on the winning track in Week 16 by beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football 20-17. The game went to overtime, but the Broncos have more regular-season wins in overtime (28) than any other team in NFL history. This season alone, they have won three games in overtime.
In addition to getting it done in games that go into an extra quarter, the Broncos have also shown an ability to win after falling behind big. They have three victories this season where they’ve climbed back from a deficit of 14 or more points. That number of wins leads the NFL in that scenario.
The Broncos went into halftime with a 14-3 deficit, and their offense wasn’t working well. Even their world-class defense was struggling to slow down the Bengals offense.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak noted that the locker room was not emotional at halftime.
“No, actually if anything it was just the opposite," he said. "I told them I believed in them and I told them we're fixing to go play a great second half and I had confidence in them. We hadn't done a lot right up to that point, but we're fixing to go do a lot of things right. That was my message after the game. It was one hell of a second half of football.”
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Broncos' win over the Bengals.
Offense Adjusts in the Second Half
The Broncos have struggled to score points and move the ball in the second half over the last few weeks. In fact, they hadn’t scored a single point in the second half of their three previous games before Monday night.
That all changed against the Bengals.
The Broncos looked different on the final drive of the first half, which led to a Brandon McManus field goal to make the score 14-3. The team went away from working under center as it used the shotgun formation and an uptempo offense to move the ball quickly down the field.
As the second half began, it was clear the Broncos wanted to push the pace.
Kubiak talked about the change in tempo.
“Well, we had no possessions in the first half, you know?" the coach said. "So we have to do something, so let’s just go to two-minute [offense]. I felt they played really well. And then once we got into it, let’s stay with it, even though we got the lead. [I’m] just impressed with how Brock handled the group.”
A change in tempo helped wear down the Bengals defense as the game went on. The altitude of the Mile High City is a weapon the Broncos can use to exhaust opponents who aren’t used to the thin air. In the second half, it became clear that the Bengals defense was gassed. That helped the Broncos move the ball more consistently and climb back to get the win.
C.J. Anderson Sparks the Rushing Attack
The rushing attack was ineffective until the team featured C.J. Anderson more as the ball-carrier. Entering halftime, he had one carry for zero yards. In the second half, there was clearly an emphasis to involve him more, and he finished the game with 73 yards on nine carries with one rushing touchdown.
Anderson had his own ideas about second-half adjustments.
“I don’t think it was really adjustments," he said. "I mean we made some, but it was more about getting the ball in the second half. I think we had the ball for six minutes in the first half.
"We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities in the first half with those six minutes, but the Bengals were on the field a lot in the first half. We came and just said, ‘If we can get a drive together and make it 14-10, we’ll be good.’”
The young back has the power to grind down an opponent as the game wears on. With the Broncos emphasizing tempo as a weapon in the second half, Anderson’s power became even more devastating. So long as the Broncos are playing at home, they should continue to employ this strategy in order to move the ball consistently.
Owen Daniels Is Clutch
The tight end position is a big part of the Kubiak offense, and veteran Owen Daniels came up big for the Broncos in crunch time. He was targeted seven times and hauled in five catches for 70 yards against the Bengals.
Two of those catches came at crucial moments.
With less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Daniels snared back-to-back passes to help move the chains and gash the Bengals defense. He caught a 16-yard and 26-yard pass from Brock Osweiler to help his team. Unfortunately, that drive ended with an ugly missed field goal from Brandon McManus that could have won the game.
Daniels felt good about the faster pace in the second half.
“We felt like we got some stuff going at the end of the half doing that uptempo stuff," he said. "It looked like they were getting a little tired and they weren’t moving quite as fast when we were doing it. We stuck to it and got some good things out of it. It was a nice change-up. We didn’t plan on doing that, but it’s good to know that we can adjust.”
With Daniels’ extensive experience in this offense, we could continue to see more of him when the team turns to a hurry-up scheme in order to move the ball.
In overtime, he came up with another clutch catch. On a 3rd-and-10, Daniels caught a 12-yard pass to keep the team’s game-winning drive alive.
Emmanuel Sanders Goes over 1,000 Yards
After four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had yet to pass 1,000 yards receiving in a season. In two years with the Broncos, he now has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
The first half against the Bengals was not kind to the Broncos offense. Sanders only had one catch for 35 yards going into halftime.
He was brutally honest when discussing the flow of the game.
“The first half wasn’t good," he said. "It is crazy because the past couple of games, the first half was good and the second half we weren’t. Obviously, it flipped on us. We went uptempo and started running the football.
“We knew we needed to make plays. Sometimes when your back is against the wall you start swinging, and that is what we did.”
He ended the game with four catches, 67 yards and one receiving touchdown. Sanders has developed into one of the best receivers in the league during his time with the Broncos. His speed, toughness and big-play ability are shining through in the Mile High City.
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware Come Through Late
The Broncos feature two great pass-rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Neither had a sack against Bengals starter A.J. McCarron, but the impact this duo made on the game won’t necessarily show up in the box score.
The game was intense—especially when it went into overtime. The conditions were brutal as temperatures sat around 15 degrees Monday night. The defense stayed fired up and fed off the energy it felt from yet another sold-out crowd at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Miller admitted the game had the feel of a playoff game.
“It felt like a playoff game," he said. "Every time I play I try to bring playoff Von to the mixture, but it was great. The fans are great. The energy was magical. There was real Mile High magic tonight. We played a great defensive, a great offensive game and deserved to come out with the win.”
Miller knocked the ball out of McCarron’s hand in overtime for what should have been a game-ending forced fumble. The officials took extra time to look at the play (at the heated request of Kubiak) and decided that it was instead an incomplete pass.
On the next play, the Bengals had a bad snap, and McCarron couldn’t rip the ball away from a charging Ware. That play ended the game and guaranteed the Broncos would head to the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
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.