Broncos v. Browns Report Card

The Denver Broncos improved their grades as well as their record with the 34-30 win over the Cleveland Browns.

PASSING OFFENSE: A - Because of injuries and a 13-point deficit, the Broncos needed a near-perfect second half from quarterback Jay Cutler and the receivers, and they got it. Cutler threw for 447 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Eddie Royal caught a 93-yard score, Daniel Graham looked swift and powerful on another score and Brandon Marshall's 11-yard touchdown sealed the win. Cutler has been under criticism and took some chances, but he made the plays the Broncos needed to win.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C - The Broncos can't be blamed for not having a great running game Thursday night. Before halftime, they lost two more tailbacks to injury, meaning they played the second half without their top four tailbacks. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were out for the season, Ryan Torain suffered a serious knee injury and a few plays later Selvin Young couldn't go any further because of a groin injury. Fullback Peyton Hillis gave Denver a game effort, and picked up a key fourth-and-1 on the game-winning drive, and Torain looked strong before his injury.

PASS DEFENSE: D-plus - The Broncos allowed Brady Quinn to look very comfortable in his first NFL start. Quinn spread the ball around, threw a couple of touchdowns to tight end Kellen Winslow and led Cleveland on what looked like it might have been a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter. Cornerback Dre' Bly did make a big play, forcing a fourth-quarter fumble on Winslow.

RUSH DEFENSE: C - Jamal Lewis averaged just over three yards a carry, a good number especially considering he gained 29 yards on one of his 19 carries. Denver allowed a few big runs to receiver Josh Cribbs on gadget plays and to shifty Jerome Harrison. The Broncos were without all three starting linebackers once Nate Webster hurt his knee a few plays into the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D - Matt Prater missed a field goal on Denver's first drive, and had a bad night kicking off. It wasn't an ideal night to have short kickoffs, because Josh Cribbs is dangerous. He consistently gave Cleveland good field position and on a few occasions the Broncos' last line of defense made a touchdown-saving tackle.

COACHING: B - The Broncos were missing four tailbacks and five defensive starters in the second half, and trailed by 13 points. Somehow, they managed to pull out a huge win that keeps them in first place in the AFC West. The Broncos seemed to push the right buttons down the stretch in a game that they had only a couple of days to prepare for on a short week.



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