They came. They fell behind. They battled back to win. They sustained another tough injury. And No. 6 came up absolutely huge. It was just another Sunday at the office for the Broncos.
But as is usually the case in the NFL, those are just the superfluous details decorating Sunday’s bottom line, which was a win over the Chiefs, 24-17.
By now, the Broncos have long since buckled the seat belt to the roller coaster ride that is the 2008 season. Wherever and whenever the ride ends, one has to admire the way this team continues to battle, continues to gut it out, continues to overcome itself and continues to insert obscurity into its lineup and win.
Running back Peyton Hillis was the latest impact player to succumb to injury, hurting his hamstring in the second half. Head coach Mike Shanahan told 850 KOA after the game that things didn’t look good for the rookie out of Arkansas, who might miss several weeks. We should know more early this week.
No matter. Tatum Bell, while hardly unstoppable, was effective enough to keep the Chiefs’ defense honest to pay a degree of attention to the Broncos’ running game.
More importantly, quarterback Jay Cutler engineered three scoring drives of 80 yards or more. The final one was a 12 play, 95 yard gem that consumed 6:07 and resulted in the go-ahead touchdown on a six yard pass to Brandon Marshall with 10:10 left in the game.
Cutler again showed that the Broncos are his team and it is on his shoulders that the Broncos’ playoff fate rests. The cynics will say he inherited this role by process of elimination; the rest of us know better. The young man from Santa Claus, Indiana has a big bag of responsibility on his sleigh and at least as much confidence in his ability to drive it to the Promised Land, or somewhere pretty close.
After Maurice Leggett returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Chiefs a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Cutler got serious. He put together touchdown drives of 11 plays, 80 yards in 5:27. Hillis’ 18 yard touchdown run was the capper and brought the Broncos back to within 10-7.
In the second quarter, Cutler found Marshall from 12 yards out to bring Denver back to 17-14. That drive was 80 yards in 14 plays and lasted 6:57. And when the Broncos had to have a first down late in the fourth quarter, Cutler delivered a 19 yard strike to Marshall on third-and-10 from the Denver one yard line. The completion moved the chains and allowed the Broncos to run out the clock. No big deal.
When all was said and done, Cutler completed 32-of-40 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. He was a huge reason the Broncos possessed the football for 36:38.
Cutler can seemingly turn it on at will. Oh, he’ll make some mistakes and go through his funks. But he’ll also overcome the loss of six running backs during the course of the season (Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Anthony Alridge and Peyton Hillis), bail out an inconsistent defense and gladly be the unquestioned centerpiece to a team that is 8-5, has won four of its last five games, is playing good football late in the season, and is one win (or a San Diego loss) away from winning the AFC West.
And he is only going to get better.
Aside from Cutler, which Broncos mean the most to this team why? I’d love to read your thoughts.
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