Like it's not hard enough facing Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts with a full team - today the Broncos are forced to do it minus the big guys - Javon Walker and John Lynch, who are still nursing injuries from last week's trainweck against Jacksonville.
Other inactives on today's list - S Hamza Abdullah, RB Mike Bell, OT Ryan Harris, TE Stephen Alexander, DT Amon Gordon and DT Sam Adams.
The tube's got the Browns laying one out on Baltimore - unreal. It's less than thirty minutes till game time - Strap it on and get ready for some pain…
No matter what - the Broncos at least won the coin toss. Nice return by Hixon - out to the 35. Broncos bust out on the run - Henry breaks one up the middle for a sweet ten. Henry steals it around the left side and into Colts territory - five straight runs by Henry moves it to the 17
Nice pass to Marshall - too bad it's about two feet above his grasp - completely missed Brandon Stokley who was wide open - Elam to the rescue - Broncos take an early 3-0 lead and get ready for the onslaught.
Peyton takes two plays to hit midfield - Joseph Addai's looking good - Colts cross midfield down to the 44. I swear Manning had about 20 seconds in the pocket before he hits Addai for a one-yard loss. Finally some pressure and Peyton comes up short - Colts are forced to punt - Hixon for a fair catch at the thirteen - Cutler and Co. are back for round two.
Marshall's my new best friend - bust a couple of tackles and moves it out to te 26. Henry's back again for a quick 13 - add another six and a slight limp - Selving Young takes over for another first just past midfield - Broncos have pulled down almost 80-yards on the ground this quarter.
Shanny pulls it off again - 32-yards on the end around to Young - Broncos are rolling on the ground - inside the ten. Henry up the middle AGAIN… FUMBLE - Tarvis recovers and it's third and goal from the eight - Cutler to Marshall across the middle and Denver stretches it's lead to 10-0 over Indy. No it's not a misprint - 10-0 over the Colts…
Nice return - Broncs get flagged for roughness when Hixon slams Colts returner T.J. Rushing to the ground out of bounds - nice intensity, bad timing… Colts move it to the Broncos 45 - Marvin Harrison gets baged up on a block - might spell trouble for Indy. He sit's a play and is back out for the punishment - it's down to the 28 as Manning hits Harrison - second and two and Adai on a short one up the middle good enough for a first as the quarter comes to a close. Indy looks snakebit, but they're rolling with the punches - another 8-yarder for Manning moves it close to the thirteen - as the first comes to a close.
Addai finds gold off tackle and Indy cuts it 10-7 - so much for the shutout… Hixon takes it at the twenty. Trainers are still working on Harrison - from this angle it looks like they‘re trying to glue his leg back on.
Broncos keep it on the ground with Young on a nice pickup - Cutler to Graham moves it near the thirty-five before Cutler calls time - more miscommunication from the sidelines. Cutler across the field to Nate Jackson - moves it to the Colts 38. Henry contiues to pound it - third and three - Henry's got it close - here come the chains. It's a Bronos first on the 26. Broncs got a buck thirty on the ground so far - Cutler to Stokley on the sidelines for another first at the twelve. Check out this stat - Denver's more than doubled up the Colts on time of posession - NICE… Young heads off tackle down to the four, fourth down and Elam nails a chip shot to pull out a 13-7 Denver lead with 8:29 in the half.
Colts suddenly remember that Denver can't stop the run - Addai just might get enshrined after this one - Indy's tearing it up on this drive - making it look easy. Inside the red zone - Broncos bring the rush - Dummerville applies the pressure and and Manning dumps it incomplete. Back to the ground for a few - Third and six and Manning hits a wide open Dallas Clark in the end zone for a score - nine plays, 61-yards and it's now a 14-13 Colt lead.
Cutler regroups at the twenty. Henry on the ground for a few - but the drive stalls on third and two from the twenty-eight - Sauerbrun‘s first appearance of the afternoon come at the two minute warning. So Manning gets it back, with a boatload of time - against a "D" that's got more gaps than Michael Strahan's teeth. This is really blowing my chances at a decent spot in line for the buffet.
Let me take the foot out of my mouth - Broncos defense holds and Cutler gets another crack with fifty-one seconds remaining. Kick is moved back to the seven thanks to a block in the back penalty on Special Teams - Rob Morris is down on the field and they're bringing out the cart - looks like it's his right leg… Cutler kills the clock and the Broncos head into halftime trailing 14-13.
Checking out my picks from the earlier games and I swear this is the last time I'm doing it sober…
Indy returns to the 29 - nineteen-yard pickup. Back to the run - Addai breaks it loose for another seventeen - his ongest run of the season. Manning to Fletcher for twelve and my kidney's are starting to burn. Colts hit Broncos territory. Manning to Fletcher AGAIN - this one picks up an easy twenty-one yards. Addai on the gound to the eleven - follows it up by moving it inside the one - QB sneak up the middle - could it get any easier? Colts begin the crucifiction - 21-13.
Hixon gets tanked at the thirteen on the return - Henry picks up a few and it's second and seven - Cutler gives it away - Marlon Jackson makes a perfect pick … here we go again boys and girls… Seven straight games Cutler's thrown an INT…Colts take it at the fifteen.
Is it just me, or does Shanahan look like he's a half a step away from a major meltdown? A hand full of plays later and Manning finds Clark in the end zone for a quick seven. Two touchdowns in less than three minutes - and you know it's not over yet.
Broncos get another shot at the twenty and it's back to the basics. Mixing it up between the pass and the rush the Broncos move it out past midfield. Henry's dropped for no gain but gets his leg jacked on the tackle - replay looks painful - his leg just got trapped up underneath him - Henry heads to the sidelines - Young gets the call. Cutler out of the shotgun hits Stokley inside the thirty - Young breaks it off tackle to the ten - follows his blockers to the one for a first down. Young to the left for no gain - penalty on the Colts for too many men on the field (how hard is it to count?). Cutler on a keeper and it's a Denver touchdown - Broncos narrow it 28-20 with 1:10 left in the third.
Just noticed the monitors are busting out old Jay Cutler high school footage… I'm sure that'll help.
Here come the Colts - out to the Broncos 27 as the third comes to a close.
Colts line is opening holes big enough for my grandmother - Addai is eating it up - out near midfield - hang on - he's shaken up, heads to the sidelines but it doesn't look serious. Manning to Clark on the side keeps it moving. Holding penalty brings up first and twenty - doesn't really matter - Colts keep it on the ground and Kenton Kieth picks up the first inside the twenty. Keith on a back to back takes it to the ten and a third and one. Reggie Wayne in the end zone for the score - Foxworth gave up a three yard cushion and it comes back to haunt him. Colts expand it 35-20.
Broncos need to break a big one - Henry's still on the sidelines… Five plays later and they can't push it past the thirty-five - Sauerbrun connects for 65-yards and Manning and Co. take it at the twenty.
Just caught the Chargers - KC score… and it dawned on me - the AFC West is absolutely pitiful…
More Manning - more yards - more embarrassment - and another three points. Colts have scored on every single posession in the second half. Now might be a pretty good time to panic in Denver. Broncos are under the gun 38-20 with 2:34 left.
Time to go through the motions - Cutler hits Youg for eleven but five of it comes back on a delay of game penalty - 1st and ten from the 26 - QB scramble for nine - Cutler to Young picks up eight and it's first and ten at the forty three. Cutler out of the shotgun gets drilled - FUMBLES - This is starting to hurt. Colts end the misery with a kneel and the Broncos drop to 2-2 with a 38-20 smackdown.
Here's some stats -
Peyton Manning - 20/27 for 193-yards and three touchdowns
Jay Cutler - 13/21 for 131-yards, 1 TD - 1 INT - 1 fumble
Joseph Addai - 19 carries for 136 and a score
Travis Henry - 26 carries for 131 - No touchdowns
Here's something pitiful - the Broncos are currently tied with the Raiders for first in the AFC West with matching 2-2 records. Tied with the Raiders - the world's out of balance on this one.
But hey - it's not all bad in the 5250 - the Rockies nailed it against the Diamondbacks and head to a one-game tie-breaker tomorrow night for the Wild Card. It's not enough to make anybody forget about the Broncos - but it does ease the pain just a bit.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past ten years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net
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