The Good News: The Broncos won and Phil Lindsay is a monster.
The Bad News: Just about everything else.
The Broncos beat the Bengals 24-10 Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati, extending their winning streak to three games. Denver battled to an ugly 7-3 halftime lead but pulled away in the third quarter and kept the Bengals out of shouting distance for most of the second half.
Now, Denver sits at 6-6 and appears to be just a few wins away from ending a two-season playoff drought. But despite the win, the Broncos' path to the postseason became a little rockier on Sunday.
Chris Harris Jr. was the first Bronco to ride the cart into the locker room. In the first quarter, Bradley Chubb landed on Harris' leg while making a tackle and 9News is reporting that X-rays showed a broken fibula.
With Harris gone for the game, and likely the rest of the regular season at a minimum, Isaac Yiadom was forced to step up. The rookie wasn't stellar and relied on a couple of dropped balls, but he avoided giving up big plays. Several safeties, primarily Justin Simmons, also saw time lined up against wide receivers.
Despite losing the All-Pro cornerback, the Broncos' pass defense held its own against the Bengals. In his first career start, Jeff Driskel completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown to Cody Core and an interception. It is worth noting that star Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green was knocked out of the game in the first half and Denver's pass rushers put together another stellar performance.
Von Miller and Shelby Harris each added a sack-and-a-half to their season totals and rookie Bradley Chubb sealed the game with a strip-sack and recovery in the fourth quarter. Miller hit Driskel three times and Chubb and Harris each got to him twice.
Most of the pressure was generated after Derek Wolfe was carted to the locker room with a rib injury in the first half. Wolfe was ruled out for the game but the nature of the injury is still unknown.
The Broncos' run defense was equally solid. They allowed over 100 rushing yards and 82 to Joe Mixon, but most of those came late in the game when Denver was focused on limiting big plays that would allow the Bengals back into the game.
Todd Davis was the anchor of the effort, making 10 tackles, three of them for a loss. His partner at inside linebacker, Josey Jewell, left the game in the first half because of an ankle injury and didn't return.
There were injuries for the Broncos on the offensive side of the ball as well, but those were less serious. Emmanuel Sanders was evaluated for a concussion after taking a huge hit to the head but was cleared. Sutton came up limping after catching a deep back-shoulder pass on the sideline, but he also returned to the game. Sutton was the Broncos' leading receiver with 85 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
There wasn't much worth noting in the Broncos' passing attack. Sutton caught two deep passes, one for a touchdown, but the rest of the day was fairly lackluster. Keenum avoided turnovers for the third straight week but missed a few open targets. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Broncos' running game shined. Phil Lindsay was unstoppable and ran for over 150 yards. Royce Freeman was effective late in the game, gaining tough yards and grinding the clock. He also fumbled in the fourth quarter. Even Devontae Booker found a role catching two key passes out of the backfield and making defenders miss.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Phil Lindsay is a monster.
On Sunday, he ran the ball 19 times for 151 yards. He scored his first touchdown from six yards out by following his blockers to the right side of the line, waiting for the linebackers to commit to the outside run, then cutting back to the space in the middle of the defense. Then, he broke off a 65-yarder around the edge to give the Broncos a 21-3 lead halfway through the third quarter.
What's most impressive about Lindsay's game is his ability to be effective running the ball in any direction. He gashed the Bengals up the middle for consistent yardage, then when they over-committed, Lindsay broke runs to the outside for massive gains. He set Cincinnati up with the jabs, then landed the knockout punches.
PLAY OF THE GAME
For the second-straight week, the Broncos' defense made big plays to keep the team in the game. This week, Justin Simmons made the first.
The Bengals were driving in Denver territory, facing a 14-3 deficit early in the third quarter. Driskel dropped back to pass from the Denver 30 and uncorked a deep ball. But with pressure in his face, the pass sailed on him.
Justin Simmons was waiting at the eight-yard line like a center fielder. He brought in the pass and set the Broncos up to take a three-score lead.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"They get mad if I don't get five yards." — Phil Lindsay on the Broncos' offensive line.
BY THE NUMBERS
+2 — The Broncos' turnover margin
12 — Penalties on the Bengals
218 — Rushing yards for the Broncos
The Broncos will hit the road again next week when they take on the 49ers in San Francisco. Sitting at 2-9, the 49ers haven't been the up-and-coming NFC power many expected to see, in part because of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's season-ending knee injury.