COIN TOSS: Lonie Paxton, Chris Kuper, Kyle Orton, J.D. Walton, Brian Dawkins and Elvis Dumervil are at midfield as captains for the Broncos. The Broncos call heads — and it’s heads. Denver elects to receive.
KICKOFF: Lance Ball is deep to receive the opening kickoff as the crowd is on its feet. The ball sails out of the back of the end zone — get used to that with kickoffs now coming from the 35-yard line.
Q1 15:00: The offensive starters are on the field, led by Kyle Orton at quarterback. Along the line are Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Chris Kuper and Orlando Franklin. Knowshon Moreno is at running back, Spencer Larsen is at fullback, Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker are the receivers and Daniel Fells is the starting tight end.
Q1 14:50: After a pass batted at the line by Marcus Ware, Moreno picked up 4 yards on second down. Now third-and-6, Orton drops back into the shotgun. He takes the snap and fires quickly to Eric Decker, who finds a lot of room down the sideline for a big gain into Cowboys territory. The ball is now at the Dallas 47. It’s a 29-yard gain.
Q1 13:30: Orton avoids pressure on the ensuing first down, tossing a quick pass to Moreno out of the backfield for an 8-yard gain. Moreno follows it up with a run up the middle for 6 yards and another first down. The Broncos are moving as Willis McGahee takes his first carry as a Bronco, picking up 6 yards. Second-and-4 brings another McGahee run, and he takes it to the 16-yard line for a first down.
Q1 11:07: Moreno spins away from a tackle in the backfield and turns it into a positive play — a 7-yard gain, in fact — to the 9-yard line. On second down, the offense continues its strong first drive, as Moreno takes the ball to the 3-yard line, setting up a first-and-goal.
Q1 9:49: A defensive penalty is marked off half the distance to the goal, so the ball is now at the 1-and-a-half-yard line. Orton tries lofting a pass to Lloyd, but Bryan McCann is in tight coverage and it’s incomplete. The offense is called for a 5-yard penalty for having 12 men in the huddle on second down, pushing the ball back before the next play. The offense breaks the huddle and Orton is in the shotgun on second-and-goal. He barks out a call at the line, avoids pressure and fires to Lloyd, who was out of bounds when he caught the ball. That makes it third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, and as the giant scoreboard encourages fans to “Rev It Up,” Orton steps back to the line. The quarterback drops back, rolls out and throws the ball out of bounds under pressure from Jason Hatcher to bring up fourth down.
Q1 9:09: Matt Prater is in for a field goal attempt — a 24-yarder — and it’s good to give the Broncos an early lead.
BRONCOS 3, COWBOYS 0
Q1 9:05: Prater’s kickoff is fielded in the back of the end zone for a touchback. The starting defense is taking the field, with Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley and Robert Ayers on the line. Wesley Woodyard, Joe Mays and Von MIller are at linebacker, and Champ Bailey, Andre’ Goodman, Brian Dawkins and Rahim Moore make up the secondary. The Cowboys’ first play from scrimmage is a run by Felix Jones, who is blown up at the line of scrimmage by Joe Mays.
Q1 8:37: After the 1-yard gain, Romo finds Chris Gronkowski — Dan’s brother — for a first down. Gronk was tackled by Von Miller — his first NFL tackle. With the ball at the Dallas 32-yard line, Romo is in the shotgun on first down. He quickly finds Jason Witten, who is wrapped up by Woodyard immediately after a 6-yard gain. Jones takes a carry on the next play and squeaks through the line for a gain to the Denver 44-yard line — a first down. It’s Jones again on the next play, and he picks up a handful of yards. On second-and-6, It’s a play-action pass to Jones for a screen, and the running back picks up another first down before being stopped by Woodyard.
Q1 5:17: On the ensuing first down, Lonyae Miller takes his first carry, and he’s wrapped up right away by Marcus Thomas with an assist by Elvis Dumervil. No gain on the play. Romo is in the shotgun on second down, but his pass intended for Witten is incomplete with Mays in tight coverage. Now third-and-10 at the 24-yard line, Romo is in the shotgun again. Dumervil puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and Romo’s pass is again incomplete, bringing up fourth down. David Buehler tries to tie the score from 42 yards out — and it’s good.
BRONCOS 3, COWBOYS 3
Q1 4:11: Cassius Vaughn is deep to field the kickoff, and he fields it 5 yards into the end zone before taking off. He’s buried by Kenwin Cummings, a Cowboys linebacker, at the 14. It’s first-and-10 and it looks like the first-team offense is finished — Tim Tebow is in at quarterback.
Q1 4:07: Lance Ball is stopped for a loss of 2 yards on first down. Tebow fires a screen pass to David Anderson on the next play for a 13-yard gain — good for a first down. Tebow is in the shotgun. He barks out a call at the line before taking a quarterback draw up the middle for a few yards. On second down, Tebow hands off to Ball, who is stopped at the line of scrimmage. That makes it third-and-7. The crowd is loud as Tebow drops into the shotgun. He takes the snap and gets a pass off as he is hit, and the pass is intercepted. There’s a flag in the secondary, however. Pass interference on cornerback Bryan McCann. It’s an automatic first down, and the drive continues.
Q1 1:29: LenDale White takes his first carry, and he picks up a quick 2 yards. On second down at the Denver 42-yard line, Tebow avoids a sack before he’s brought down by a second defender — Clifton Geathers — for a 10-yard loss. Now third-and-18, Tebow takes the snap and hands off to White on a draw, which picks up 4 yards and brings up fourth down as the first quarter comes to a close.
Q2 15:00: Britton Colquitt’s punt is fielded at about the 14-yard line, and Perrish Cox races down the field to take down returner Akwasi Owusu-Ansah immediately. There’s a flag on the play, however — personal foul for facemask on the kicking team. That pushes the ball back 15 yards, and Colquitt will kick again. The punter is standing at his own 10-yard line when he lets loose the punt. There’s another flag on the play — a personal foul for a low block on the receiving team. That’s a 15-yard penalty from the end of the kick, so it’s essentially a wash. The Cowboys have the ball on their own 17-yard line on the other side of a TV timeout.
Q2 14:36: The starting defense is going back out onto the field. Kitna is pressured by Von Miller on first down, but he gets the pass off to John Phillips for a first down. The tight end is tackled immediately by Rahim Moore. Now the second-team defense is right away put into the game. The giant scoreboard/TV just went blank, and there’s an audible gasp from the crowd before Kitna calls a timeout. It’s a pretty funny moment, and now the screen is already back on.
Q2 13:23: After a 1-yard run, the defense is called for encroachment, making it second-and-4 at the Dallas 37-yard line. Cassius Vaughn is there to make sure Kevin Ogletree doesn’t catch a pass thrown high to him, bringing up third down. Now there’s a neutral-zone infraction on the Broncos, giving Dallas a first down at the 42. On first down, former North Carolina Tar Heel Jesse Holley — and winner of reality show “4th-and-Long” — snares a reception for a 9-yard gain. On second down, Kevin Vickerson tackles the runner for a loss of 1, making it third-and-2. Kyle McCarthy makes an immediate tackle on Phillips after a quick pass from Kitna, and the defense holds to force fourth down. David Anderson calls for a fair catch of the ensuing punt at the 10-yard line, where Tebow and the second-team offense will start its next drive.
Q2 11:19: Interesting intermission there, where Dallas’ drum corps essentially danced around to music from the speakers and didn’t actually play drums. Anyway, back to football. Ball takes a carry on first down and picks up 5 yards. On second down, it’s a fake handoff to Ball, who makes a big block to buy Tebow time in the pocket. The quarterback launches a ball downfield and Matt Willis hauls it in behind the defense for a 43-yard gain. The ensuing play is a quick screen to Ball, who follows blocks down the sideline for another first down at the Dallas 30-yard line.
Q2 9:35: It’s a carry from Ball behind Spencer Larsen’s blocking at fullback, and he picks up a yard. On second-and-9, Tebow gives a delayed handoff to White on a draw, and the running back picks up 3 more yards. Now third-and-6, the crowd is getting loud. Tebow takes the snap and takes off up the middle of the field before being hit by a couple Cowboys. There’s a flag on the field — illegal shift on the Broncos. Five-yard penalty. That makes it third-and-11. The offense breaks the huddle and trots back to the line of scrimmage. Tebow takes the snap and fires quickly to Willis, but he’s short of the first down. Prater heads back onto the field for another field goal attempt. The 42-yarder is good, giving the Broncos the lead.
BRONCOS 6, COWBOYS 3
Q2 6:59: Prater’s kickoff is fielded 9-yards deep in the end zone for another touchback. On first down, Cassius Vaughn is called for a late hit out of bounds, giving the Cowboys a first down at their own 42-yard line. Third-string quarterback Stephen McGee is under center. Lonyae Miller picks up a yard on first down, then 4 yards on the next play. On third down, Kyle McCarthy sprints into the backfield for a big sack — a loss of 8 yards — bringing up fourth down. Mat McBriar’s punt goes out of bounds at the 13-yard line, where Denver will take back over. Tebow is still in at quarterback.
Q2 4:34: Ball picks up a yard on first down. On second down, Ball takes another carry for 3 more yards. That makes it third-and-6 — Tebow takes the snap, drops back and fires to Anderson, who holds onto the ball despite a big hit, securing a first down. The 10-yard gain puts the ball at the 27-yard line. Ball has another 1-yard run on first down as the clock runs down to the two-minute warning.
Q2 2:00: Tebow scrambles to avoid pressure and fires a pass out of bounds before he’s hit — but there’s a flag on the play. Holding on LenDale White, pushing the ball back to make it second-and-19. Ball takes a carry — and for a split second it looks like a fumble, but it was a helmet that went rolling onto the field. Dallas calls its second timeout to stop the clock as the Broncos face a third-and-16.
Q2 1:41: Tebow has plenty of time in the pocket and after looking downfield he decides to take off on a run. He picks up 13 of the 16 yards necessary for a first down, bringing up fourth down. The Cowboys use their final timeout to stop the clock again.
Q2 1:30: Colquitt’s 40-yard punt is fielded at the 26-yard line, and returner Dwayne Harris loses 5 yards on the return thanks to the pursuit of Dante Rosario. A 7-yard pass on first down — and a Denver timeout — is followed by an incompletion on second down, bringing up third-and-3. On third down, Perrish Cox is there for an interception of McGee, and the second-year cornerback races all the way to the Dallas 7-yard line. It’s a 27-yard interception return, and Denver has a first-and-goal with a minute remaining in the half.
Q2 1:00: Tebow scrambles to his left for a touchdown, but there’s a holding call on the offense, pushing the ball back and nullifying the score. Now it’s first-and-goal on the 17-yard line. Tebow takes the snap under center, fakes a handoff to Ball and tries to find Britt Davis on the sideline, but the pass falls incomplete.
Q2 0:48: On second-and-goal, Tebow takes the snap and hands off to Ball, who picks up 3 yards. Denver calls its second timeout to stop the clock.
Q2 0:43: On third-and-goal, Tebow decides to run to his left. A huge block allows him to get to the sideline, but as the play breaks down, the quarterback stiff-arms a defender and sprints back across the field to his right before lofting a pass to Davis, who takes the ball to about the 5-yard line. There are a number of flags on the field, however. Three fouls on the offense — illegal forward pass, which is declined; illegal block in the back, which is declined; ineligible receiver downfield, which is also declined. That makes it fourth down at the 8-yard line, where Davis was tackled — the play stands since every penalty was declined. Prater is in for his third field goal attempt, and it’s good again.
BRONCOS 9, COWBOYS 3
Q2 0:17: After a 32-yard return, Dallas has a first down at its own 33-yard line. McGee takes a knee and the first half comes to a close with the Broncos ahead by six. See you on the other side of halftime in the Second Half Blog.