Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker is congratulated by center Dan Koppen (67) after Decker scored on a 13-yard pass reception in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Keating)
Sometimes, it’s not about necessarily outplaying your opponent. Sometimes, it’s about keeping your composure. It’s about staying the course.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton out-threw Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning 299 yards to 291. The Bengals outgained the Broncos 366 to 359 yards. The Bengals earned two more first downs than the Broncos, and they forced two Denver turnovers while only surrendering one.
But special teams proved to be a huge X-factor in favor of the Broncos on Sunday, who escape Ohio with a hard-fought 31-23 win. A missed Mike Nugent field goal at the end of the first half left the Bengals trailing 10-3, then the Broncos’ Trindon Holliday returned the second half’s opening kickoff 105 yards for a franchise-record-breaking, game-changing touchdown. Those turned out to be the difference-makers.
Along with a very resilient Denver team.
Because while Holliday was able to run away with the touchdown, the Broncos weren’t able to run away with the game. Peyton Manning was intercepted twice — on back-to-back pass attempts in the third quarter — that led to 10 Bengals points and ultimately saw the Broncos’ 14-point lead disappear into a three-point deficit.
Then Manning and the Broncos, who have been terrific in fourth quarters this season, kept their composure while the Bengals lost theirs. Penalties, sacks, and an interception suddenly ailed the Bengals in waves, while a cool and confident Peyton Manning finished two drives with touchdown passes to Joel Dreessen and Eric Decker to retake the lead. The Bengals’ last-minute comeback effort fell short, ending this physically-demanding roller coaster of a game with the Broncos’ fifth win of the season.
It was a bit of a wake-up call for the Broncos, who were flying perhaps a little too high following statement wins against the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. Still, a win in the NFL is a win, and the Broncos showed they can keep cool under pressure and despite their own mistakes. Who gets your game ball, Broncos fans?