It was a moment AJ McCarron had felt prepared for. A two-time national champion in college, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback had been in pressure situations before -- particularly those in which a close game was on the line -- based upon how he could rally his offense and lead it downfield for a key score.
DeMarcus Ware came up with the big play he's been looking for ever since missing a month with a bad back, and it put the Denver Broncos into the playoffs.
The winning quarterback assuaged fears in his locker room. Denver was rightfully getting worried that the games were too big for Brock Osweiler (scoreless in his previous three second halves coming into Monday night) but he was confident and mostly on target when he had to be against a physical Cincinnati secondary and oppressive pass-rush. Late in the game he started hitting his two security blankets, Demaryius Thomas and Owen Daniels; Thomas, in particular, bailed him out on the winning field-goal drive with an amazing one-handed third-down-conversion catch, made while fending off cornerback Adam Jones.
From Peyton Manning’s mood in light of HGH allegations to the toppling of nearly all of the NFL’s top teams, it was upset Sunday in more ways than one. Here is the Broncos QB’s emotional response, plus analysis of the coin-flipping, perfection-puncturing, playoff-puzzling action of Week 16.
It took overtime and an incredulous duck hook from Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, but the Denver Broncos were the latest team to deliver heartbreak to Cincinnati in primetime.
For 30 minutes, the Cincinnati Bengals looked like the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a dominant defense. For 30 minutes, they looked like a team trying to get by with a backup quarterback and a defense gasping for air.
AJ McCarron did what he was supposed to do for the first 65 minutes of Monday night’s 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos. Not make a turnover. Then on second-and-10 from the Cincinnati 33 he let a shot-gun slap slither through his hands, Denver recovered and the night that had started so well with a 14-0 lead was done. And so was the Bengals’ best chance for a play-off bye.