After a close game, the Cincinnati Bengals emerged from Empower Stadium victorious, edging out the Denver Broncos 15-10.
Both teams needed a win to move up in their respective divisions, and it was the Bengals that squeaked out the victory.
This was the third time the Bengals have held an opponent to only 10 points, after limiting the Steelers to that many in their two games against them.
The Bengals scored first thanks to another long field goal from Evan McPherson, this one from 53 yards. It was his eighth 50-plus-yard kick of the year, and he made it look easy in the thin air of Mile High Stadium. The kick was good and had plenty of room to spare, and the Bengals led 3-0 with 6:34 remaining in the first quarter.
Defenses ruled the first half, as the Bengals kept the Broncos to only 33 yards of offense in the first frame. Neither team scored again until Brandon McManus made a 54-yard field goal with 10:44 to go in the second quarter. The Broncos had the game tied 3-3 after 20 minutes.
This has been a great season for McPherson, and that 58-yard kick was icing on the kick. It was his 9th kick of 50 or more yards this year, and the longest kick of his college and professional career—beating his previous long of 55 yards from last year at Florida.
That kick was the longest made field goal in franchise history, and McPherson became the first kicker in franchise history with nine 50-yard field goals in a season.
Despite the field goals, there were no touchdowns scored in the first half. The Broncos did manage one more attempt from McManus at the end of the half, but the kick was wide to the left. The Bengals had 14 seconds left, and Burrow unleashed a 19-yard pass to Tyler Boyd on the next play. That set up a 58-yard attempt from McPherson, which he nailed. As the clock expired, the long field goal put the Bengals up 6-3 going into halftime.
Defenses dominated, and the Bengals only had six points in the first half for the second straight week. This time, they had Trent Taylor back returning punts, so they didn’t have to overcome a deficit caused by special teams.
The Bengals’ offense didn’t come alive until the second half. They rushed for 3.3 yards per carry in the first half, but on the next drive gained nine yards a pop on the ground. The offense stalled in the red zone, so McPherson came in for a relatively easy kick of only 26 yards. The Bengals took a 9-3 lead with 6:21 to go in the third quarter.
Teddy Bridgewater left the game on the next drive, and that seemed to energize the Broncos’ offense. The Broncos gained 31 yards on the ground after Bridgewater left the game, which set up a 25-yard touchdown from Drew Lock to Tim Patrick. With 1:15, the game’s only touchdown gave the Broncos their first lead, up 10-9 with 1:15 left in the third quarter after McManus’ extra point.
The Bengals answered quickly. Joe Mixon recorded his longest run of the day on the Bengals’ first play from scrimmage, which was good for 11 yards. Then, Burrow hit Tyler Boyd for a 56-yard touchdown pass. Boyd couldn’t handle the two-point conversion, but the Bengals retook the lead, up 15-10 with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The two teams punted back and forth, leaving the Broncos one last chance for a touchdown with only 64 seconds to go in the game. Lock couldn’t get the Broncos out of the shadow of their own end zone, so the Bengals closed out the game, winning 15-10.
This was a key win for the Bengals, who improved to 8-6 on the year. The Bengals move up to second in the division, with the potential to move up to first depending on the result of the Browns vs. Raiders game on Monday.
The Bengals’ playoff aspirations remain alive.