What probably should have been a comfortable win for the Bengals turned into a 29-17 loss to the Broncos thanks to far too many mistakes by Cincinnati, enough that they would have had a tough time beating anyone on this day, let alone the defending Super Bowl champs.
Here is a look at our winners and losers from the game.
The Ground Game
This was the kind of resurgence the Bengals' rushing offense needed after being nonexistent during the first two games. In the first two weeks of the season, offensive lineman seemed to be taking turns every run play on missing their assignments, but against Denver, we finally saw all five-plus guys making their blocks on a consistent basis.
That, in turn, allowed Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to gash the Broncos for big gain after big gain throughout the game. It didn't appear the play-calling was much different than the first games, but instead was just guys consistently executing their blocks.
While the ground game as a whole was a big winner, so too was Hill. The third-year running back had a 2015 season to forget, and through his first two games in 2016, it was starting to look like his struggles were bleeding over.
But, not so fast. Hill looked much more confident and explosive hitting the hole against Denver, which he did for several big gains.
Jeremy Hill with a huge 50-yard run to the Denver three. https://t.co/xSa93SFkpx— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 25, 2016
He looked as good as he ever has staying patient with his blocks and hitting the hole.
Touchdown Bengals! 7-0 with 11:07 remaining in the first. https://t.co/s3oezMIhl7— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 25, 2016
Hill also reached the end zone twice and now has three scores through three games.
Touchdown No. 2 for Jeremy Hill today. Bengals lead 14-10 with 4:57 remaining in the second. https://t.co/RtS4UVRN7Y— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 25, 2016
The Bengals are finally getting production out of the defense ends not named Carlos Dunlap or Michael Johnson. The biggest producer has been Will Clarke, who has quietly been a very effective pass-rusher through the first three games.
Will Clarke with a sack. https://t.co/Q8oIT5Ky32— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 25, 2016
After picking up a sack last week vs the Steelers, Clarke racked up another one vs the Broncos this week. He also had a tackle for loss and pass deflection. He's done enough to warrant getting more snaps going forward.
The Bengals offense is struggling to find consistency, but the defense isn't exactly helping them. They'd been very erratic over the first two games, and they went full meltdown against the Broncos. That allowed Trevor Siemian to look like the second coming of John Elway, as he picked apart the defense.
Siemian threw for one score and three interceptions through his first two games, but finished with four scoring passes and no turnovers vs the Bengals. Whether it was Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard or Chris Lewis-Harris, Siemian was roasting the Bengals for big play after big play.
Given, Denver has a dynamic duo at wide receiver with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, but those two haven't torched anyone this year like they did Cincinnati. Siemian did plenty of damage hitting other guys as well, and this was just a bad effort by the Bengals defense, who also dropped some easy interceptions in this game while committing far too many penalties.
When you're a superstar player, you don't toss up consecutive duds as A.J. Green has over the past two games. After his two-catch, 38-yard performance vs Pittsburgh, Green was held in check again vs Denver with eight grabs for 77 yards.
What really hurt was Green's stone-cold drop late in the fourth quarter on a 3rd-and-2 play in which he caught the ball between the numbers and had the first down, but dropped the pass.
That can't happen, but Green has made similar plays in far too many crunch-time moments. This one helped cost the Bengals, as Cincinnati then punted and went on to lose.
This was a game to forget for Adam Jones. Not only did he get torched by Emmanuel Sanders for a 41-yard touchdown, but Jones also fumbled a punt that led to a Broncos touchdown. That's two scores Adam essentially gifted Denver in what was a 12-point loss for Cincinnati.
Adam got beaten in coverage on several other occasions and injured his leg toward the end of the game. Jones was up and down in the first two games, but he was mostly down in this one. Perhaps we're seeing why the Bengals spent yet another first-round pick on a corner this year, even if that player is now injured.