Cutler will need more consistency v. Raiders

Led by calm and confident quarterback Jay Cutler, who was making his sixth career start, the Denver Broncos drove downfield and pulled out a dramatic 15-14 win against the Buffalo Bills.

Cutler had 304 yards and came up with some clutch plays on Denver's final drive. He also made some questionable decisions, including a lateral to running back Selvin Young that set up a third-and-23 on the final drive. But Cutler had 51 yards passing after that and ran for a first down on fourth-and-two.

"That's what you're looking for in a quarterback," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Cutler set up the game-winning field goal, but had some help. Receiver Javon Walker made four catches on the Broncos' final drive, including one on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Walker also caught a 21-yard pass after Cutler's mistake led to a third and 23. He was shaken up on the play but came back a few plays later.

"As Michael Irvin always told me, I'd rather take that hit for a catch like that," Walker said.

The Broncos needed a big special teams play at the end. The clock was running with about 10 seconds left and Denver had no time outs left when they rushed the field-goal unit on the field. Holder Todd Sauerbrun had barely got down when the snap came back to him, just before the game was over, and Jason Elam hit a 42-yard field goal to win it.

"Out of all the kicks I've had, I've never had a scenario like that," Elam said. "That was a lot of fun."

The Broncos were thrilled to get the opening day win. Denver had lost its last two openers on the road and was behind for most of the game Sunday. The Broncos allowed a long punt return and a 23-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch on third down and 11.

Cutler had a costly error in the first half too. With the Broncos driving near the end of the first half, he threw way over Brandon Stokley and the Bills intercepted it.

Despite the Raiders' horrible record in 2006 and opening day loss to the Lions in Week One, they have a pass defense better-equipped to challenge Cutler. The Raiders have better corners than the Bills do and will likely be looking for validation after facing Mike Martz's revamped passing attack last week. Cutler will need more heroics and less sloppiness if he hopes to succeed in Week Two.

Despite kicking the game-winner, Elam will need to be more consistent as well. He missed two field goals earlier in the game. His shot at redemption came late in the game but wasn't easy. He said he never even got set before his field-goal attempt because Sauerbrun was behind him getting on the field. Elam hit the kick right down the middle.

"Not the way you want to start, but I'm going to look back on this game down the road and this is going to be one of my favorites," Elam said.

Elam has now hit 21 field goals that either won the game in the fourth quarter or sent the game to overtime.

"That's why you don't let a guy like that go, because you know he is battle tested," Shanahan said.

PLAYER NOTES

--CB Domonique Foxworth sprained his ankle, but X-rays were negative. He didn't return to the game, however.

--CB Jeff Shoate played nickel cornerback because of injuries to Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymah. Shoate made a nice tackle on a wide receiver screen play.

--DE Simeon Rice played a few downs, usually in passing situations. He made some plays too, knocking down a pass at the line of scrimmage and stuffing an end around run.

--OT Adam Meadows was released before the first game. Meadows was injured for most of the preseason. Chad Mustard, who switched from tight end to tackle during training camp, was signed to take his place.

--RB Travis Henry had a big game in his Broncos debut. He had 139 rushing yards on 23 carries and added 44 receiving yards. He said he was fully healthy from a knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago but was a bit tired because he didn't play much in the preseason.



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