The 5-6 Bengals are relying on backup quarterback Jeff Driskel to get back into the playoff race as they take on the Broncos. Follow along here for live updates from Cincinnati.
The Bengals’ offense slowly churned out yards after the turnover and ultimately squandered the opportunity. Once again, an early penalty, this time a false start by Matt Lengel, doomed the drive from the get-go.
It looked as if Denver was going to put their foot on Cincinnati’s throat, as they started their drive with decent field position (thanks to another poor Kevin Huber punt) and a Shawn Williams helmet-to-helmet penalty. But, the defense held strong, as Jordan Willis sacked Keenum on third down to give Cincinnati the ball back.
The Bengals squandered the opportunity, as Denver subsequently went to “grind-the-clock” mode. As they rode Lindsay, Booker and Freeman, Cincinnati’s defense forced yet another punt with 3:22 to play in the game. Unfortunately, the Bengals’ defense was without Vontaze Burfict, who left the game with a concussion.
But, yet again, with a backup quarterback and a number of other high-profile offensive starters benched, Cincinnati faltered. Boling, who was in relief of Glenn on the left side, allowed Bradley Chubb to get the dreaded sack/forced fumble/recovery on Driskel to seal the game for the Broncos.
It led to a McManus field goal with 23 seconds left, as Denver beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, 24-10.
Cincinnati received the kickoff to start the second half, but more self-inflicted wounds stopped the Bengals in their tracks. A holding penalty on Trey Hopkins put the offense in a big hole, while Tyler Boyd had an uncharacteristic drop, leading to another Bengals’ punt—their fifth of the afternoon.
The Bengals’ defense held strong once again, thanks to pressure from Geno Atkins on third down. But, in a microcosm of the 2018 season for Cincinnati, Alex Erickson had an uncharacteristic muff on a punt, leading to a turnover in their own territory.
Denver made the Bengals pay almost immediately, as Case Keenum hit Cortland Sutton for a 30-yard touchdown. Darius Phillips was in coverage, as Dre Kirkpatrick left the game with an ankle injury a few plays earlier. The Broncos held a 14-3 lead with 11:27 left in the third quarter.
Driskel led the offense with a couple of nice throws, though one left Boyd vulnerable to a vicious hit from Darian Stewart. Immediately following the nice gain, Driskel threw an interception to kill the hope for any points.
And, just as it did with the Erickson turnover, the interception led to another touchdown. The defense had been playing well throughout most of the day, but after allowing a long third down conversion, Cincinnati let Lindsay gash them for a 65-yard score after bottling him up most of the day. Denver shot to a 21-3 lead with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
Denver’s defense began to relax a bit and Cincinnati took advantage. Mixon had a few nice runs once again, but Driskel ended up hitting Cody Core for a 30-yard touchdown, the first of his career, as the backup quarterback went 4-for-4 for 49 yards on the drive.
Keenum had his unit on the move once again, but embattled linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr. came up with a huge play. He stripped Royce Freeman to give the Bengals’ the football back near midfield right before the fourth quarter.
The Broncos’ offense continued their early ineptitude, as Shawn Williams ended a drive with back-to-back plays to force yet another Denver punt. Thanks in part to a Bobby Hart penalty, Cincinnati was forced to punt once again, but the big news was with A.J. Green, who appeared to re-aggravate his toe injury. He was almost immediately ruled out for the rest of the contest.
A.J. Green is on a cart and headed back to the locker room ☹️— Cincy Jungle (@CincyJungle) December 2, 2018
A.J. Green has a right foot injury. Declared out. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) December 2, 2018
Denver took over after a poor Kevin Huber punt and was stopped thanks to a Sam Hubbard sack. Brandon McManus lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt, but hooked it right, keeping the score tied at 0-0.
The Bengals’ offense had a near-comical drive to follow, with penalties forcing them to face what would become a 3rd-and-39. Predictably, they punted, but nearly held the Broncos to yet another punt of their own, but, as has been a trend all season, Cincinnati’s defense allowed points right before halftime once again. Phillip Lindsay bolted into the end zone right after the two-minute warning to go up 7-0.
Cincinnati’s next drive was aided by a couple of questionable penalties to Denver defenders as time ticked to the midway break. Unfortunately, an intentional grounding penalty on Driskel stalled out the drive, paving the way for Randy Bullock to hit a 35-yard field goal. Bengals cut Denver’s lead to 7-3 at the half.
Thanks to a personal foul penalty on Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer, the Broncos 8-play drive stalled near midfield and the Broncos were forced to punt, giving Driskel and the Bengals’ offense the ball at their own five-yard line.
Cincinnati’s opening offensive drive started nicely, thanks to four straight Joe Mixon positive plays, including three runs and a catch. The Bengals rode Mixon into Denver territory, but a Clint Boling penalty (who is starting at left tackle today), ended the drive.
Both teams exchanged punts, and the game was tied at 0-0 after the first quarter of play.
The Bengals are kicking off the month of December with an inter-conference matchup with the Broncos today. This is the Bengals last chance at salvaging their once promising season as their margin for error becomes thinner and thinner. But the news they received this week should help them out.
A few notable players will be returning to the field from injury today. The biggest has to be A.J. Green, who missed the last three games with a toe injury. The Bengals have been 0-3 without him. He should be a very welcome addition to Jeff Driskel who will be making his first start at quarterback in the NFL.
Cincinnati will also be getting Dre Kirkpatrick and Nick Vigil back. Vigil has been out since being hurt in the Steelers game, and Kirkpatrick just missed last week’s game. The defense can use all the help it can get after getting dismantled by Baker Mayfield and the Browns last week for 28 first-half points.
The Broncos are fresh off two wins against playoff teams (the Steelers and Chargers). That doesn’t mean they aren’t without their faults. Undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay is probably the best running back who isn’t consistently getting 15 touches per game. He was pretty much the biggest reason the Broncos pulled out the victory against the Steelers as he rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on only 14 rushing attempts.
Who will keep their Wild Card hopes alive?
How to watch the Bengals host the Broncos
Game: Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) vs Denver Broncos (5-6)
Date/Time: Dec. 2nd, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Streaming: Fubo TV
Series Leader: Broncos lead the all-time series 21-10
Streak: Broncos have won two of the past three
Coaches vs. Opponent: Marvin Lewis: (3-7) vs. Vance Joseph (0-1)
Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Adam Archuleta (analyst).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).
SB Nation Broncos site: Mile High Report
Weather: High 40’s, Partly Cloudy [NFL weather]
Odds: Bengals open as, -1.5 [Odds Shark]