For those keeping score here's the Broncos inactives - Josh Barrett, Chris Kuper, Chris Baker, Brandon Gorin, Brandon Lloyd, Jarvis Moss, Le Kevin Smith and everybody's favorite, Tom Brandstater is the third quarterback.
You guys ready for some football?
Denver game plan is pretty much what you would expect – Orton's playing it tight and trying to bust out the ground game. Correll Buckhalter – 3 carries for 23-yards including a nice 14-yard pickup. Ouch – first pass of 2009 for Brandon Marshall goes right through his hands… Broncos do manage to move it out toward midfield but the drive stalls and Brett Kern is out for the kick – Bengals take it at their own 12.
Broncos "D" starts tough – stopping Cincy short on back to back runs – unfortunately Palmer connects across the middle for a nice 18-yard gain on a weak secondary. Palmer follows it up with a 22-yard strike to Ocho and the Denver looks stunned. Broncos dodge a bullet – offensive holding brings back a 14-yard gain… something tells me this is gonna be a long season…
Palmer moves it into Broncos territory but comes up short after two incompletions – Broncos will take the kick at their own 16.
Here comes Moreno – five quick ones on his first NFL carry… Welcome to the league rookie – no gain on second down. Third and ten and Orton gets it tipped at the line of scrimmage and Branmdon Stokley gets mauled trying to bring it in… Unbelievably no flag on the play – Denver rolls three and out.
Palmer and the Bengals break it on a short field thanks to a nice 14-yard punt return – here comes trouble… Palmer's making it look easy – Denver's giving it up big on the pass and Cincy moves to the Broncos 11 – looking for the field goal. ANOTHER bullet dodged – snap is fumbled all the way back to the Denver 44-yard line… the gods of football bailed them out on this one… Now we gotta see if Orton and the offense can capitalize.
Evidently not… two sacks and a short 8-yard toss to Marshall… did I mention this was going to be a long season?
Quarter comes to a close as Palmer connects with Ocho on a huge 34-yard gain… this may be the point you want to start drinking.
McDaniels should send a bottle of scotch to whoever scheduled Cincy as the opener – any other team would be miles ahead at this point…not that it won't happen here, but at least it hasn't happened yet. Palmer moves it to the Denver 38 but the drive stalls and the Broncos take it at the 16.
Here comes the three and out – another pass to Marshall goes through his hands, but considering the ball was completely under-thrown I can't hold this one against him…
Bengals completely control the time of possession and continue to rack up the yardage. Nearly four minutes on this drive alone and the Bengals being the Bengals, bungle it at the worst possible time – Palmer to Ocho gets picked by Wesley Woodyard at the twenty…
ANOTHER missed opportunity – three and out seems to be the mode of the day…Broncos have 39 total offensive yards at this stage.
Palmer's moving it again as the clock winds down to the two-minute warning…
Typical Cincy – whole lot of time, absolutely nothing accomplished – Broncos get another shot at it with just over one minute left – don't hold your breath.
Look out now – Orton's got a pulse – long ball to Gaffney on the sidelines may move it into Prater territory – Official review – zzzzzzzz… it's a completion…
Twenty-seconds to go – out of the shotgun – Scheffler on the crossing route gets it stripped and it second and ten. Keeping it on the ground – no gain – here comes Prater with four ticks left. Bengals look to ice it with a quick time out – doesn't work – Broncos take a lackluster 3-0 lead into the locker room for the first half.
I can hardly contain myself... I'm sending out for alcohol.
Just keep telling yourself – thank god it's Cincinnati… Carson goes through the motions but it skids to a giant halt thanks to Laveranues Cole's third drop of the game…you gotta feel for Bengals fans… than again, you gotta feel for Broncos fans as well.
Here's a shocker - Denver's moving backwards. Moreno looses 4-yards on first down, then you can tack on another five yards for a false start flag… there back at the own five and Orton connects with Marshall who's at least six-yards shy of the first down. That's brilliant… Kern to punt near the goal line – shanks it – 27-yards on the punt.
Thank god it's Cincinnati… thank god it's Cincinnati… thank god it's Cincinnati
Ok, so here comes the "D" - beautiful back-to-back sacks – Mario Haggan and Darrell Reid with the damage… Bengals are forced to punt. Need to check my blood pressure – first bit of excitement all day.
Ok, that was short lived - Broncos get trapped deep thanks to a blindside block by Champ Bailey on the punt – take possession on their own five… Orton's playing it safe – Moreno on the ground and a short toss to Daniel Graham moves it out to the 17 where Buckhalter breaks 11 more on the ground.
Welcome back Mr. Marshall – Orton sends him across the middle to get acquainted with the Bengals secondary – huge hit for only a four-yard gain… Drive stalls with an incomplete to Hillis and Kern returns to the field – more flags – false start moves it back another five. That's three false start penalties in this quarter… Bengals take it on their own 16-yard line.
It's Cincy's turn to move back – Benson around right end looses five as the Broncos swarm him. "D" is starting to gain some confidence – near pick by DJ Williams – would have been a walk in touchdown if he'd held on. Palmer to Caldwell comes up short and Broncos will take it at their own 34-yard line off Royal's 11-yard return.
Sweet pass protection – Orton's got all day – finds Scheffler on a huge 29-yard shot. Hillis adds two on the ground and an Orton scramble tacks on another three. Out of the shotgun – Orton to Stokley on a slant – Stokley drops it…you don't hear that often – here comes Prater to split the posts from 50 and Denver takes a 6-0 lead as the clock winds down on the third.
Cincy starts of trapped again after an offensive pass interference penalty on Ocho to close out the third – drive starts on their own 8-yard line with a first and 17 to go. Hard odds to overcome – Palmer moves it out to the 23 but it's three and out and the Broncos get pretty good field position at the 35.
Quick toss to Hillis picks up six and Orton continues to go to the air.. Royal across the middle gets hammered – he's on the turf with the training staff attempting to piece him back together again. Appears to be ok – but what do I know – it'll be listed as both an upper and lower extremity issue if I know McDaniels.
Third and four and Orton hits Marshall for nine – that makes 2 out of 10 on third down conversions. Back to the ground and Moreno gets stopped after one. Not the most impressive debut for Moreno at this stage. Back to the air – Orton to Graham gets called back by an offensive holding penalty on Ben Hamilton – brings up second and 19 from the 41. Back to Graham for ten bringing up 3rd and nine…
Bengals bring the house – Orton's running for his life and finds Graham all alone for a sweet 20. Back to back carries for Lamont Jordan and Hamilton gets tagged for another false start penalty – quick dump to Buckhalter picks up a first – but they call it back – flag on Wiegmann for holding – another shot in the foot for the O line.
McD takes a time out to try and regroup – it doesn't work – Orton gets sacked for the third time today and they loose another seven. There goes any shot at a field goal… Kern sails it to the Bengals nine – completely blown opportunity by the Broncos offense.
Palmer comes out swinging with less than five minutes to go – huge 12-yard pick up to Ocho forces McD to burn another time out – he's down to one left. Shotgun to Ocho tags on another 13 – Benson around the end for another 20. Palmer to Caldwell and they've got another 13 at the two minute warning.
Is it just me, or is this beginning to look more and more like a Denver meltdown?
Palmer to Leonard for 18 – Palmer to Caldwell for seven – back to Caldwell and the Bengals are at the goal line – possible touchdown – Officials review… play is called down inside the one – Benson over right guard and Cincy's on the board…
It's all up to the PAT and McDaniels is pleading his case to the officials – not to sure what the point is – kick is good and Cincy takes a 7-6 lead with twenty seconds remaining in the game.
Eleven plays, 91-yards and the Bengals deliver a huge package punch to McDaniels and the Denver Broncos.
More officials conference – it's a clock screw up – zebra's charge Cincy with a time out and nearly double the time on the clock – Denver's got one last chance with .38 seconds to go.
Royal takes the kick out of the end zone – slips at the 10 and slides his way to the 12. Orton's got .34 seconds to put it together. Looking for Marshall deep on the sidelines comes up incomplete – out of the shotgun – again to Marshall – bell is tipped by the Bengals and falls right in the hands of a wide open Brandon Stokley – 87-yards later and it's a Broncos TOUCHDOWN… UNBELIEVABLE – the crowd is stunned – credit to Stokley – had cut another four or five seconds off the clock before scoring. McD goes for two - incomplete to Marshall - my fingers are speechless…
Palmer and the Bengals get one last shot with five ticks left on the clock…
Broncos playing it deep – Hail Mary is picked by Scheffler and the Broncos close out an otherwise dismal game with a classic shot of their own. Wow, 12-7 and they're headed back to face the Browns... I definitely need a drink.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past twelve-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 and Internet stations around the country. You can follow all of Schon's updates on Twitter or drop him an email at Michael John Schon
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