Broncos top Bengals 24-22 for Fox’s 1st Denver win |

Broncos top Bengals 24-22 for Fox’s 1st Denver win

Associated Press
Broncos Eric Decker touchdown catch in the fourth quarter vs Bengals Sunday September 19, 2011at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Joe Amon,The Denver Post

DENVER (AP) – The Denver Broncos had just enough healthy players left to hold on for the win despite a lineup that was left looking more like the preseason where fans wonder who’s that guy?

Willis McGahee ran for a touchdown and Eric Decker caught two touchdown passes from Kyle Orton to lead the Broncos past the Cincinnati Bengals 24-22 Sunday for John Fox’s first win as Denver’s coach.

The Broncos (1-1) lost two more players to injury – giving them nine, including six starters – but still managed to beat the Bengals (1-1) for the ninth straight time in Denver, where Cincy hasn’t won since 1975.

Andy Dalton, who bruised his right wrist and forearm in Cincinnati’s win at Cleveland a week earlier, threw for 332 yards for the Bengals, hitting fellow rookie A.J. Green 10 times for 124 yards and Jerome Simpson four times for 136 yards.

But the Broncos’ bevy of backups bottled him up on his final two drives as he tried to get into field goal range.

After scoring on four straight possessions, the Bengals looked like they had caught a big break when Britton Colquitt’s 82-yard punt was called back because Broncos gunner Chris Harris didn’t get back inbound quickly enough.

On the re-kick, the Bengals got the ball at the Denver 45-yard line instead of their own 11 with 51/2 minutes left.

Rather than try a 53-yard field goal, however, the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 36 even though they were 1-for-11 on third down conversions.

Green sneaked into the right flat, but Robert Ayers sniffed out the naked bootleg and drove Dalton into the ground as his pass fell incomplete.

Denver was down to just two receivers and had been forced to use backup quarterback Tim Tebow as a slot receiver, and Ryan Clady’s second holding call pushed them back and they were forced to punt.

The Bengals got the ball at their 5 with 2:25 left and no timeouts remaining.

They reached midfield at the minute mark, but nickel back Jonathan Wilhite, playing for Champ Bailey, sacked Dalton, and then another backup, Wesley Woodyard, playing for D.J. Williams, made a diving deflection of a pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham.

That brought up fourth-and-19 from the Bengals 43, and Dalton’s desperation pass went out of bounds with 23 seconds left.

The Broncos were missing five starters in Bailey, Williams, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and tailback Knowshon Moreno.

They missed Lloyd the most, especially after Eddie Royal left with a strained left groin in the second quarter. They also lost rookie tight end Julius Thomas to a sprained right ankle on their fifth snap.

The Broncos took a 17-3 lead on Orton’s 25-yard TD toss to Decker in the third quarter, but the Bengals scored on their next four possessions. Dalton’s 10-yard touchdown throw to Andre Caldwell sandwiched around Mike Nugent’s two short field goals made it 17-15.

The second of those field goals came after defensive end Michael Johnson beat Clady around the edge and knocked the ball out of Orton’s arm. Nose tackle Domata Peko recovered at the Denver 14.

On the next drive, Decker hauled in a 52-yard TD pass, stopping along the right sideline to catch the ball at the 25 and leaving defensive backs Nate Clements and Chris Crocker sprawled on the ground as he trotted into the end zone.

Von Miller recorded his first sack as a pro on the game’s next snap, and with Mile High rocking, middle linebacker Joe Mays was out of position when Dalton hit Simpson over the middle for an 84-yard gain that set up Green’s tiptoe touchdown catch that made it 24-22 with 11:17 left.

McGahee, who hadn’t carried the ball more than 20 times in a game since November 2008, rushed 28 times for 101 yards. He leaned over the goal line from a yard out to cap the 15-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 81/2 minutes and gave Denver a 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

The Bengals lost wide receiver Jordan Shipley to a left knee injury in the third quarter.

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