Broncos v. Bengals Report Card

Quarterback Jay Cutler made many nice throws and looked impressive against Cincinnati for only his fourth career start, which the Denver Broncos figured they had to win to make the playoffs. Check out how the passing game and other aspects of the Broncos' play graded out.

-- Jay Cutler made many nice throws and looked impressive for only his fourth career start, which the Broncos figured they had to win to make the playoffs. Cutler threw a couple of touchdowns in the first half, and made a few important passes on a 99-yard drive in the third quarter that gave the Broncos the lead for good.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- In the first half the Broncos couldn't move the ball effectively and Tatum Bell's fumble near the end of the first half led to a Bengals touchdown. Mike Bell got more carries in the second half and the Broncos started moving the ball on the ground. Tatum Bell had a couple of good runs in the second half as well.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Broncos played almost exclusively in a nickel defense against Cincinnati's dangerous receivers. They also played their safeties deep a lot to contain big plays. It worked, as the Bengals completed only two passes longer than 20 yards. The Broncos did get lucky a few times, when Carson Palmer missed wide open receivers on what would have been touchdowns.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos conceded the run to the Bengals by playing in a nickel defense almost the entire game. Rudi Johnson had 129 yards rushing, but didn't win the game for the Bengals. In fact, one of Denver's biggest plays was when John Lynch hit Johnson and forced a fourth-quarter fumble.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- It's hard to give the Broncos much credit on special teams. They had a punt tipped, although that was with Denver backed up at its 1-yard line. They also allowed a long kickoff return in the fourth quarter. The biggest play of the game was with Denver's special teams on the field, but the Broncos didn't have much to do with Cincinnati flubbing a snap on an extra point.

COACHING: A -- The Broncos took some chances with their game plan, especially on defense. They wanted to contain Cincinnati's passing game, and that worked. Offensively, the Broncos are finding a perfect mix of plays for rookie quarterback Jay Cutler. The coaches deserve credit for pushing the right buttons, even when the Broncos' chances seemed to be dead after a four-game losing streak.

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