First-quarter notes and random thoughts …
2:14 p.m. MST: At the very least, the Broncos cannot be eliminated. Jacksonville’s loss to the New England Patriots guarantees that the Broncos will head into the 17th week still in the midst of the playoff race, win or lose. Nevertheless, for many practical purposes, this is something close to an elimination game.
2:16 p.m. MST: Denver opens with George Foster at right tackle, Brandon Marshall as a No. 3 wide receiver and Tony Scheffler as the lone starting tight end.
2:17 p.m. MST: Jay Cutler’s first throw and Denver’s first play is disastrous; he looked for Scheffler but released the football late, allowing Dexter Jackson to get the interception … Jim Nantz castigates Tatum Bell for a lack of effort trying to tackle the former Super Bowl MVP, who gets to the Denver 5 before Tom Nalen reaches him to push him out of bounds.
2:20 p.m. MST: In the spirit of Christmas — or at least, the spirit of one-good-turn-deserves-another — Carson Palmer’s pass to T.J. Houshmanzadeh goes right into the hands of a waiting Darrent Williams. He actually thinks about taking it out of the end zone before mercifully taking a knee and accepting the touchback.
2:26 p.m. MST: Cincinnati’s defensive backs are playing Walker tightly. One incompletion for the fifth-year wideout saw Madieu Williams draped on him like tinsel on a tree; the other saw a defender within one step of him to make the tackle even if Walker had managed to snare the third-down pass that was slightly behind him. Paul Ernster’s punt covers 42 yards and the Bengals take over at their 25.
2:30 p.m. MST: With Cincinnati playing three-wide with Chris Henry joining Chad Johnson and Houshmanzadeh, look for a healthy dose of Ebenexer Ekuban at ackle and Elvis Dumervil at right defensive end opposite Kenard Lang on the left side. From this formation the Bengals run on three consecutive plays, with Rudi Johnson gaining 24 yards on his three carries. The Bengals also went no-huddle after each run.
2:31 p.m. MST: Almost as though he wanted to say, “Enough,” John Lynch slams Rudi Johnson to the grass after a 6-yard run. Carson Palmer then goes back to the air on the next play and finds Chad Johnson for 8 yards and a first down.
2:34 p.m. MST: A huge break for the Broncos as Chad Johnson was open in front of Curome Cox for a 19-yard reception and a chance to run the additional yardage for a first down, but Palmer’s pass hits the Pro Bowl wideout between the numbers and skips incomplete.
2:38 p.m. MST: As snow flurries begin to fall, the Broncos’ offense falls backwards — back from their 7-yard-line to begin their third possession to the 1-yard-line after the Bengals sack Cutler on third down.
2:40 p.m. MST: John Lynch turned up the heat on this frigid, now-snowy day with a second-down shot, but Kenny Watson’s 13-yard run for a first down one play later renders the shot moot.
2:45 p.m. MST: Rudi Johnson finishes the 19-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown sweep to the left — in spite of Darrent Williams’ efforts to pry the football loose after he crosses the goal line. The snow flurries are growing stronger now … and the Broncos offense needs to do the same posthaste, as it’s still looking for its first foray into Cincinnati territory.
2:48 p.m. MST: Okay, this “Ocho Cinco” folderol has gone too far. Standing in front of a camera for a holiday greeting with Palmer and Justin Smith, the wideout identified himself with the following salutation: “Hi, I’m Ocho Cinco from the Cincinnati Bengals.”
He’s one step away from referring to himself in the third person by his nickname.
2:50 p.m. MST: Cincinnati’s pressure continues to collapse the Denver pocket; Cutler has hit the grass three times today.
2:51 p.m. MST: Denver goes three-and-out after Brandon Marshall’s desperate bid to find extra yardage through a thicket of Cincinnati defenders.
2:54 p.m. MST: Ladies and gentlemen, the man who should be your NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Champ Bailey.
2:56 p.m. MST: The snow is getting thicker … and Leon’s getting larger!
Tags: Cincinnati Bengals