The Denver Broncos have surged into the AFC West lead as quickly
as the Cincinnati Bengals have watched their promising start
It may not be a coincidence given the rise of Peyton Manning’s
play and the recent struggles of Andy Dalton.
Manning has never lost the Bengals, and his Broncos seek a third
straight victory while dealing host Cincinnati a fourth consecutive
Denver got off to a disappointing 1-2 start as Manning’s 85.6 QB
rating ranked 11th in the NFL. The future Hall of Famer has been
stellar since, though, posting a league-best 127.9 passer rating
while throwing 12 touchdowns to only one interception as Denver
(4-3) has won three of four to take sole possession of the division
Manning went 22 of 30 for 305 yards and three touchdowns in last
Sunday night’s 34-14 blowout of New Orleans, becoming the first
quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 300 yards, throw
three TDs and complete 70 percent of his passes in four straight
games. He battled through a thumb injury to pass for at least 300
yards in a career high-tying fifth straight game after banging it
on a defender’s helmet in the second quarter.
“Quarterbacks, probably the biggest fear is always the thumb on
the helmet of the defensive lineman,” said Manning, who has won
each of his seven career starts versus the Bengals while throwing
17 touchdowns to three interceptions. “It’ll be sore, but I’m
probably a little bit lucky.”
Though luck seems to have little to do with Manning’s latest
surge, Dalton and the struggling Bengals (3-4) likely would welcome
some coming out of their bye week.
Dalton finished 14 of 28 for 105 yards in a 24-17 loss to
Pittsburgh on Oct. 21, tossing his sixth interception during
Cincinnati’s three-game skid. He’s thrown at least one pick in
every game this season.
“You have to play (well) at quarterback in order to win. That
stands out,” said coach Marvin Lewis, whose team held a 14-3 lead
against the Steelers. “You have to take care of the ball on
offense. You have to play efficiently at quarterback. That’s the
way it is when you look at the games across the league. Turnovers
Cincinnati has turned the ball over eight times during its
losing streak which has wiped away a promising 3-1 start, but Lewis
hopes the bye week helped the Bengals regroup.
“I thought we were very, very good at stinking up October and we
need to do a cleanse,” Lewis said. “We have an opportunity to fix
a lot of the things that are ailing us right now, and that’s what
we’ve got to do.”
Cornerback Leon Hall said the current slump may provide some
“We like that position, to be honest,” Hall said. “No one gives
us a chance after losing three games in a row and Denver is playing
really well. You have to give it to them, but we like that
Cincinnati allowed 167 rushing yards versus Pittsburgh, which
may not bode well against a Denver team that finished with a
season-best 225 yards on the ground last week.
Willis McGahee ran for a season-high 122 yards and a touchdown
for the Broncos, who had combined for 127 rushing yards over their
previous two games.
“We just showed glimpses of what our offense can do when we all
work together,” McGahee said.
The Bengals’ ground game hasn’t been nearly as good, averaging
78.7 yards over the last three. They haven’t had a 100-yard rusher
this season, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 3.4 yards per carry average
ranks 38th in the NFL among 49 qualifying players.
Denver held New Orleans to only 51 yards rushing as Wesley
Woodyard led a strong defensive effort with a sack and strip, an
interception and 13 tackles to earn the league’s defensive player
of the week honor.
“We’ve still got to continue to get better,” said Woodyard,
who’s the first Denver defender to record 50 tackles with multiple
sacks (three) and interceptions (two) before the midway point of
the season. “We don’t want to be satisfied with what we did
(Sunday). We want to come back next week and show the same
It’s a similar message coach John Fox is trying to instill in
his team during its surge.
“You’re never as good as they say you are, you’re never as bad
as they say you are,” Fox said. “The key to this thing is getting
better each and every week. That message won’t change with our
McGahee rushed 28 times for 101 yards and a score in last
season’s 24-22 win over Cincinnati, marking Denver’s third straight
victory in the series.