The Cincinnati Bengals fell to the Denver Broncos in overtime, 20-17 as AJ McCarron's inexperience cost the team.
The Cincinnati Bengals entered overtime with their defense taking the field first. After limiting the Broncos on the first few plays, Vontaze Burfict picked up a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and from there, a bunch of first downs ensued. The Broncos were unable to score a touchdown, but capped off the drive with a 37-yard field goal. Brandon Tate brought the ball out to the 33-yard line, with his best return of the game as the Bengals' offense took the field in overtime. On McCarron's first throw of the game, Von Miller hit McCarron as he let go of the ball. It was called an incomplete pass, not a fumble, was reviewed, and confirmed. But, on the next play, McCarron did in fact fumble the ball, and Denver's defense was able to recover the ball, ending the game.
In a game that many thought would be a defensive slugfest, the Bengals came out ready to score and show the Broncos who was boss. But, in the second half, the Broncos came out firing with running back C.J. Anderson gashing the Bengals with every chance he got. That was until Anderson fumbled the ball after getting hit by Bengals defensive end, Michael Johnson and Reggie Nelson recovered the ball, giving the Bengals the ball on their 26-yard line with 4:05 remaining and 2 timeouts. The Bengals weren't able to take advantage of the turnover, simply eating up time as they handed the ball back to the Broncos with less than two minutes remaining. After not playing well for the majority of the game, Brock Osweiler had a great final drive in regulation for the Broncos, leading up to a 45-yard field goal with four seconds remaining on the clock. But, Brandon McManus missed the field goal, sending the game to overtime.
The Bengals started the game with the ball and handed off to Jeremy Hill often. Mixed in on the first drive were some excellent third down plays. Giovani Bernard made a great four-yard catch, dashing away from two tackles to get the first down. Marvin Jones also contributed with a beautiful catch.
Nice grab by Marvin Jones. https://t.co/BuyxrPVO1k— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 29, 2015
The Bengals then continued something they've done all season, in trying to target rookie offensive tackle Jake Fisher in the endzone, but with pressure coming at AJ McCarron, the play failed. From there, McCarron, in his second game starting in the NFL, threw a 5-yard pass to A.J. Green in the back, right corner of the endzone. Green made the catch look easy and put the Bengals on the board first. The drive was one of the best opening drives the Bengals have had all season, with the team clicking on all cylinders from running to passing.
AJ Green: very good. #MNF pic.twitter.com/OSUoBr2izh— The Comeback (@comeback_sports) December 29, 2015
On the Bengals' first defensive drive, there were a few penalties, but many impressive plays with Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap making their presence felt fast. Burfict was the recipient of one of those penalties, but made up for it was a great play.
Hell of a play by Burfict!! https://t.co/rFxAe1KZ36— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 29, 2015
A few plays later, Carlos Dunlap brought Brock Osweiler down for his first sack of the night.
Carlos Dunlap with the sack on second down... https://t.co/2pmXW8ErjL— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 29, 2015
Giovani Bernard contributed with another first down catch on the second offensive drive and McCarron quickly added a scramble up the middle for 16 yards. The first quarter ended with the Bengals at 3rd and 3 on their 47 yard line. Marvin Jones then made a great catch to give the Bengals a first down to start the second quarter, followed by a two yard Jeremy Hill catch and another scramble by McCarron for the first down. The Bengals' wide receivers stepped up admirably in the first half as Green caught another impressive pass on the sidelines.
The Bengals used all three of their timeouts with more than 10:56 left in the half. But, after calling their third timeout, the team brought out Mohamed Sanu in the wildcat and he easily took the ball into the endzone for a touchdown, giving the Bengals a 14-0 lead. The drive was 13 plays, 90 yards and ate up 7:50 off the clock.
Touchdown Sanu! Bengals lead 14-0. https://t.co/WJkFN4tkbj— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 29, 2015
After the Broncos punted the ball away again on their next drive for the third time in the half, McCarron and the offense took the field and another pass catcher took the opportunity to make a nice play. This time, it was rookie tight end Tyler Kroft. Andrew Whitworth also showed his impressive power on the drive, as he pushed Jeremy Hill for a third yard gain on what could have been a no-gain play. Unfortunately, Mike Nugent missed a field goal from 45-yards out moments later, yielding no points on the drive. The miss was Nugent's second in three weeks, after he missed a field goal against the Steelers at home in Week 14. It proved rather costly as regulation ended with a tie.
With the Bengals back on defense, things escalated quickly for the Broncos with Ronnie Hillman picking up big chunks of yardage including a 14-yard pass. But, the Bengals applied their bend-but-don't-break defensive philosophy, with Dunlap picking up another sack, bringing his total to 12.5 (that would be added to later). The Bengals' defense then stopped the Broncos on third down to lead to a 23-yard field goal, giving the Broncos their first points of the half.
The second half opened with a near-interception by Reggie Nelson on the second play, but followed with Denver picking up a few first downs with catches from Jordan Norwood, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos marched down to the redzone with confidence on their first possession of the half and an 8-yard pass from Osweiler to Sanders gave the Broncos' their first touchdown of the game and pulled them within four points of the Bengals. The touchdown was the Broncos' first points scored in the second half of a game in four weeks.
The Bengals' offense then came out and were quickly defeated, going three and out. An Andrew Whitworth holding call gave the Bengals a 2nd and 20 that turned into a 3rd and 20 after Jeremy Hill ran for no gain. With another run play called, Jeremy Hill ran the ball for five yards before Kevin Huber punted it away. The momentum seemed to be shifting at this point, with everything seemingly falling apart after the Nugent miss.
But, the Bengals' defense forced another three and out, with one of those plays being another Carlos Dunlap sack. Though it appeared to be a shared sack, official stats gave him full credit, bringing his season total to 13.5, an official record for the Bengals, previously held by Eddie Edwards with 13 in 1983. Dunlap was a complete beast all evening, attacking Osweiler on every chance given.
Two injuries then occurred within a play of each other for each team. Brandon Marshall left for the Broncos with a knee injury, and on the next play, a punt return, Shawn Williams, starting in place of George Iloka (out with a groin injury) got pushed into Huber's knee and was down on the field. Rookie safety Derron Smith replaced him for a snap, but Williams returned to the lineup one play later.
While the first half saw a highly-efficient Bengals' offense, the same could not be said in the second half as the Bengals sputtered with many three and outs, dropped passes and runs for no gain. The offensive line also started to let up some of the wall they built early on. Back on defense, the Bengals allowed a 39-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson, who ran by multiple Bengals defenders to give the Broncos their first lead of the game, bringing the score to 17-14 with 11:17 remaining in the game.
After McCarron got sacked on second down, creating a third and long situation, Mohamed Sanu stepped up again with a 20 yard catch and then another 10 yard catch, generating two first downs. The receivers seemed to have moments where they clicked and moments where they didn't. This was one of the moments they did, and Kroft hauled in a 15-yard pass to put the Bengals on the Broncos' 39 yard line. After an incomplete pass to Green in the endzone, Nugent kicked a 52-yard field goal to tie the game, 17-17 with 6:45 remaining.
Rex Burkhead added to the number of Bengals who caught passes on Monday with a third down conversion in the fourth quarter. But, after McCarron was sacked, creating a a 3rd and 20 situation, the clock hit the two-minute warning.