They had struggled during a 1-4 stretch and were in danger of falling below .500 when they fell behind 13 points on the road against the Browns. The offense came alive in the fourth quarter and the defense made some big plays to lead an important comeback victory heading into a tough road game at Atlanta this week.
"It was very, very important," tight end Nate Jackson said. "I don't think we can underestimate the importance of this win." The Broncos aren't pretending to be in great shape, especially injury wise. They finished the game against the Browns with their top four tailbacks out -- three with season-ending injuries -- and their top three linebackers on the sideline with knee injuries. They missed five defensive starters in all.
However, they needed a boost of confidence. The defense had played poorly and the offense was pressing as it tried to carry the team. That changed in the second half at Cleveland.
Quarterback Jay Cutler in particular seemed relieved by the comeback win. He had been forcing passes and had started to hear some criticism for his decision making over the Broncos' losing streak, but willed the team to the win. He threw the game-winning touchdown to Brandon Marshall with less than two minutes remaining.
"It was fun," Cutler said. "You guys have been on us a little bit, especially me, and that's fine. But this team is still in it."
The Broncos still have a one-game lead in the AFC West after the win, and a pretty tough schedule down the stretch. They have three trips to the East Coast remaining and finish the season at San Diego, which could decide the division title.
Denver wasn't too concerned about the future right after the win against Cleveland, choosing instead to revel in a big victory.
"That brings together a team," Hillis said. "I feel the morale of this team got a boost."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's just up to me to make plays, make the right decisions." -- QB Jay Cutler.
TRENDING: The Broncos got their offense going again on Thursday when they were forced to spread the field. When Ryan Torain and Selvin Young went down with injuries in the first half against the Browns, the Broncos were left with only fullback Peyton Hillis to run the ball. Instead, Denver used three-receiver, two-TE sets and passed the ball most downs. The result was 34 points, Denver's most since Week 3. Quarterback Jay Cutler had 447 yards.
The Broncos might continue a lopsided pass-run ratio. Part of that is because that is what has worked best for the offense, part of it is necessity. Torain is out for the season and Young might miss some more time, so the Broncos might struggle to run the ball. The Broncos' only problem down the stretch could be trying to pass most of the time in poor weather.
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