Denver Broncos' glass isn't half-full despite gutsy 24-22 win over Cincinnati Bengals

Categories: Sports

kyle orton post game press conference bengals september 19 2011.jpg
Kyle Orton.
CBS4 has been touting the Broncos' 24-22 win over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday by noting that the team is tied for first place in the AFC West -- which is technically true but does nothing to put the game into a larger context. Because while Denver deserves credit for prevailing, the squad will have a damnably difficult time using this formula to earn any more Ws.

No question that the Broncos were shorthanded, and shortlegged, and short-everything else. The team was severely hampered by injuries to key personnel like Elvis Dumervil and Brandon Lloyd, soon joined by Eddie Royal. But they also benefited from some key intangibles, including the ultimate home-field advantage: The last time Cincy won in Colorado was during the Gerald Ford administration (November 9, 1975). And while the Bengals don't appear to be the joke most observers figured they'd be going into the season, thanks to some unexpectedly zingy QB play from Andy Dalton, they're no one's idea of a powerhouse.

Moreover, fans' horror at Kyle Orton's dispiriting play in the opening loss to the Oakland Raiders offered an opportunity to rally not just for KO, but for the entire roster -- because another loss would have resulted in a nascent quarterback controversy coming into full bloom.

This eventuality was staved off, at least temporarily, thanks to a ground game that was just productive enough -- Willis McGahee gained 101 yards in the stead of the little-missed Knowshon Moreno -- and Orton's growing chemistry with Eric Decker, who snagged a pair of touchdown passes. And the defense, while hardly impressive during the second half, was just good enough to prevent the sort of comeback win that would have converted today into the sort of woe-is-us session with which last season was filled.

But the D was as susceptible to the pass against Cincinnati -- A.J. Green proved impressive and Jerome Simpson had a career day -- as it had been versus the run in the Oakland disaster. As a result, the defenders have a very good chance of getting torched next week against the Titans, who dismantled the seemingly fearsome Ravens yesterday, and especially the week-four opponent, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

If the Broncos don't make a decent showing against Tennessee and the Pack, the calls for Tebow will start echoing again. On Sunday, Timmy was essentially used as a decoy -- a strategy that will stop working as soon as opponents realize that his presence in a game doesn't automatically mean he'll come within yards of the ball. And a steady diet of this approach also piss off all those Broncos boosters who want to see Tebow under center, not split out wide because the wide receiver corps looks like a M*A*S*H unit.

Credit the Broncos with gutting one out yesterday. But be under no illusions that their first-place position will last.

Look below to see a Denver Post video featuring post-game commentary.

More from our Sports archive: "Broncos fans & tailgaters get best of Raiders lovers even if team doesn't (PHOTOS)."

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Great job Michael.

I do think it's important to remember that the fact is, this team simply doesn't have a lot of talent on the roster. McDaniels gutted the franchise with head scratching decisions that ranged from trading away really good players to firing competent coaches and rolling the dice on draft choices that are "projects" at best, and more probably busts.

Honestly, though, the team was sliding toward the bottom before McDaniels ever arrived. Poor drafts, "economic" decisions that saw players like Reggie Hayward and Bertrand Berry leave, and a general patchwork, profit over product, play with house money (the good will left over from 2 world titles) mentality were the trademark of this billion dollar business from the time Joe Ellis returned from his stint with the NFL front offices.

In essence this team has been living on the cheap since the day the taxpayers from Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglass, and Jefferson Counties took on 2/3's of the cost of the monstrosity that's now on its' second name. Waaaaay under the salary cap for years, this franchise has asked hefty amounts for season tickets while pocketing ultra hefty profits while putting a marginal......that's marginal.......product on the field.

The record and the roster over the last 6 years bears that out.

I do think Elway came into this with a clear understanding that he's now eating at the head of the trough, that he doesn't report to Ellis, that product is taking priority. That Ellis' strategy of marketing nominally talented players over actually signing,  drafting, developing and keeping great players will give way to the professionalism that teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers routinely embrace, year by year.

Not the least of his problems, while not his only shortcoming, Shanahan spent the years from "01 through being fired spatting with Ellis over nickels and dimes, with Ellis for some reason seemingly always coming out on top, time after time. The end product, the team crushed by the Raiders 59-14 AT HOME a year ago, is Joe Ellis' legacy as much as McDaniels'.

Fox and Elway seem to be on track. Resisting the Tebow zanies, drafting Miller, who'll be as revered as Tom Jackson 20 years from now......if he isn't damaged early.....  and hiring class coaches like Magazu to teach young guys how to move people at crucial points is a great start. The yards the line worked with #23 to get yesterday against a very good Bengals front 7 that boasts 8 really good  defensive linemen in rotation is a startling development.Beadles, Kuper, and Walton had a very competent game collectively.

But this isn't the Packers of last year, when 16 starters or 2's went down and the backups brought Green Bay a title. There's little depth, and this is a team already racked with injuries.

The Packers reaped a championship with talent drafted while Ellis was short changing the Denver fans with his profit over product strategy. It takes a while to overcome that.

5 or 6 wins is realistic. But 2 or 3 more drafts like this one, keeping good players, paying them, and reestablishing Denver a a place players want to be seems to be in the future. Wins will eventually come.

First things first. 


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On the whole I was encouraged by the game, especially by McGahee as a solid running back prospect. It was also nice to see Von Miller coming on. But yes, I agree that wins will be hard to come by for this team, especially without health. I was also dismayed by the three-and-outs in the 4th quarter (on unimaginative play-calling) . Putting the game in the hands of a suspect defense is not a sound plan for success. 

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Eric, another excellent post with a lot to consider. Thanks.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

McGahee did indeed show some of the running ability we saw in preseason. Here's hoping he can keep it up as the opponents get tougher. Thanks for the post.

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