Here's the Denver Broncos inactives for the day – FB Peyton Hillis, RB Ryan Torain, T Erik Pears, G Dylan Gandy, WR Darrell Jackson, DE Jarvis Moss, DT Josh Shaw, and DE Tim Crowder.
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Nice touch throwing in Alumni Weekend immediately following the blow out in KC – maybe it'll fire somebody up. It's important Denver hits it early – the crowd's fired and it would be great to send a message. Ok, message sent - Cutler and Co. go three and out on the opening drive. OUCH… Not to worry, so does Griese, wipe it clean and start again – Broncos field the punt at the 17.
Slight improvement – Broncos actually go six and out this time, but they did manage to get it all the way out to their own 38. Strange game plan – it's dink and dunk minus some of the dink. Less than five minutes in and Griese takes the stage again…
All week we've heard about the Tamp Bay running game, and how hard it would be for Denver to stop them. They were right – Earnest Graham breaks off a sweet 14-yarder, which is followed up two plays later by Warrick Dunne's 38-yarder. I think my head's starting to hurt. Griese drives it all the way down to the Broncos fifteen. Say hello to Matt Bryant – the chip shot just gave Tampa Bay an early 3-0 lead.
Jay Cutler - Take 2… Broncos field it at their own 23 thanks to Andre Hall. This crowd could turn quick if they don't get something happening. Nice pass coverage by the Bucs – Cutler scrambles to pick up 12 – biggest play of the game so far for Denver. Here we go… Cutler to Stokley picks up 11, Cutler to Royal adds another 12, toss in a couple of runs, another scramble by Cutler, two offensive holding penalties on the same play, and Denver's looking at life from the Tampa Bay 37 as the first comes to a close.
Matt Prater's going to be an icon at this rate – nails it from 55-yards out and Denver squeaks out their first points of the game – 3-3 game tied, two seconds into the second quarter. Prater follows it up by sailing the kick through the end zone – apparently he's pumped.
I can't believe it – D.J Williams breaks the line and the Broncos "D" pick up a sack – crowd goes nuts. Two plays later Ebeneezer Ekuban does it again and by the sound of things I'd swear we won a playoff game. Bucs look a little winded and the drive stalls out at their own 29. Cutler and Co. head out to try it again – this time from the 12.
1-2-3…as quick as that the drive is over, an incomplete, 1-yard rush and another Cutler scramble for 8 and it's still short. Shanny throws out the challenge on the spot of the ball but it stands as called - Brett Kerns is back out to punt. The entire drive took less than two minutes off the clock, but what felt like an hour out of my life. TB will take it at their own 41
I gotta give credit to the Broncos defense – it's kind of like when my daughter finally gets around to picking up her room. Yes, she didn't do the best job in the world, but it was so pathetic before that anything's an improvement – same with Denver. Defense tightens it up and throws down another Griese sack – this one by Elvis Dumerville. Bucs roll three and out.
Now it's up to the Broncos offense to do their share – Cutler starts it at the 36. Nice mix on the pass to run ratio and they're making progress. Penalties are another story – Hall gets tagged with offensive holding AND a chop-bloc on the same drive. If you're not cheating – you're not trying - the guy's solid with me.
It's turning into the Jake Plummer Syndrome – tons of yardage followed up by complete red zone inefficiency. Prater to the rescue – and the Broncos go on top 6-3 in this nail biter. Be thankful you didn't bet the over…
Just over two minutes left in the half and Griese takes it at the 20. Slow and methodical – nice clock management. Tampa Bay moves it all the way down to the Denver 13 – Matt Bryant's back again as the battle of the kickers continues. Good from 31 as the first half comes to a close. Maybe it's me, but I would have thought SOMEBODY would have scored a touchdown by this point. Time to burn one while I've got the opportunity.
Nice halftime show with a tribute to Gary Zimmerman – only the seciond player in Broncos history to reach the Hall of Fame. Back to back Super Bowls couldn't have happened without him – just ask Elway.
Broncos defense certainly stepped it up for this one… without a doubt this has been their best performance this season. Griese's under center doing his best dink and dunk, but it's not making much progress. Drive stalls out at the Denver 43 and Josh Bidwell buries them with a 40-yard punt. Denver takes it at their own 4-yard line.
That was quick – Cutler rolls out and connects with Tony Scheffler on a HUGE 33-yard gain. Selvin Young for 7 and the tide's turning. Or not – back to back incompletions with three yards to go and here comes Kerns back out to punt. That was a waste… Three yards to go for a first and you burn it with two in-com-pletes?
Tampa Bay doesn't fare much better – three and out. Eddie Royal takes the kick and advances it to the TB 47 – but he's injured on the play. That's not a good sign.
Broncos are looking at a relatively short field and go back to what brought them here. Young around the end for a few – Michael Pittman up the middle for 16, and a Tony Scheffler reception tacks another 16 on. Cutler pulls it out – 10-yard toss to Brandon Stokley in the end zone. The wait for a touchdown is over. Denver takes a 13-6 lead with just over five left in the quarter.
So much for the Revenge Tour – Griese goes to the bench with what they're calling a shoulder injury, (It was a nice shot by Champ Bailey) and former starter Jeff Garcia is going to give it his best shot.. Not that you could tell any difference. Between a pair of false start penalties and an incompletion, Tampa Bay gains absolutely nothing. Bidwell to punt.
This is a little more like it – the rain is coming down and the Broncos are mixing it up. Whatever it is, it's working. Cutler manages to move it all the way to the Tampa Bay 30 as the third quarter comes to a close. Brandon Stokley's the man of the hour with catches of 7, 8, 11 and 25-yards during this drive alone. Somebody buy this guy a beer.
Broncos' drive continues – keeping it on the ground between Michael Pittman and Andre Hall. An incomplete to Daniel Graham brings out Denver's new Mr. Automatic and he pops it from nine. Denver increases the lead 16-6.
Garcia gets another chance to dance. Starting at the nineteen he manages to pick up eight-yards, setting it up at 3rd and two. Garcia to pass – INTERCEPTION by Marcus Thomas – FUMBLE by Marcus Thomas and all told, the Bucs get another crack at it from their own 12. Wow... that was fun…
Bucs drive stalls out at the 20 – the Broncos roll out with their own three and out – and before you know it Tampa Bay gets the ball back with just over seven minutes to play.
Just to make things interesting, Garcia engineers a beautiful 13 play, 90-yard drive and hits Ike Hilliard in the end zone for the score. I would have to say this is probably the third exciting thing to happen here today, including the blonde in the parking lot. This has been one boring game… Broncos 16 - Tampa Bay 13, at the two-minute warning.
Now, here's the dilemma – two minutes is too much time on the clock. If you don't get at least one first down, the Bucs (with three time outs left)should be able to get the ball back and go for a possible tie. I don't know how many people here, besides myself, are going to slit their wrists if this game goes on any longer – all I know is Im actually praying Denver gets a first down.
I love you Tony Scheffler… 12-yard pick up to the Broncos 26. Time out #1 burned by Tampa Bay.
Michael Pittman tacks on six on the ground. Time out #2 burned by Tampa Bay.
Back to Pittman for another six. Time out #3 burned by Tampa Bay with a buck thirty-eight to go.
Kneel, kneel, kneel, thank you Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos advance to 4-1 and sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Bring it on Jacksonville… I'm headed back to the parking lot.
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