|12-25-2006, 03:06 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos survive speed trap
Defense produces turnovers, benefits from shaky Palmer
Hurry, hurry, hurry.
It's a major theme this time of year. Things to get done and no time to do it.
The Cincinnati Bengals offense played in that fashion Sunday.
Get to the line. Call the play. Go.
The Broncos defense did just enough, barely, to slow them down, too, from that hurry-up mode.
Four takeaways were the difference ultimately as the Broncos eked out an important, playoff-type victory. "It was a tough game because they were hurrying all the time," Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer said, adding the Bengals went to no huddle "10 times" more than at any previous time this season. "It was very difficult."
Still, other than 10 to 12 instances, the Broncos were able to make the proper defensive calls and align properly in allowing 343 yards and 23 first downs.
"And those 10 or 12 times we did OK. But I think that was their whole plan. And they were really good," Coyer said of the quick pace. "But our guys are pretty danged good, too. And they deserved to win because they fought, scratched and turned the ball over some. It was a 'gut' deal."
The Bengals not only got to the line of scrimmage fast, their talent at receiver forced the Broncos to employ their nickel defense for all but maybe 10 snaps.
The approach opened some running lanes for Rudi Johnson, who finished with 129 yards on 30 carries and served to tire out the Broncos defense, which faced 76 plays.
But the Broncos held their own in pass coverage, with Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams netting interceptions. Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson, mirrored by Bailey for most of the game, finished with three catches for 32 yards and had a ball stripped away by Domonique Foxworth and John Engelberger after one of those receptions.
Foxworth, the Broncos' nickel back, made 14 tackles.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was the go-to receiver most often for Cincinnati, with nine catches for 94 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown catch over the middle that appeared to send the game into overtime until the extra-point snap was botched, preserving the Broncos' 24-23 victory.
Good fortune also loomed large in other ways for the Broncos.
At least seven times, potential big Bengals pass plays turned into harmless incompletions from Carson Palmer, who lacked accuracy for much of the game after missing one practice during the week because a right shoulder problem.
"Palmer went in and out of his rhythm, which I think was a credit to our guys," Coyer said. "And early, thank goodness, he was off just a smidge. We survived that."
Williams' end-zone interception came after Palmer threw high to an open Houshmandzadeh in the end zone on Cincinnati's first possession.
But Palmer (21-of-40, 209 yards, two touchdowns) also threw long to Henry on a potential scoring throw in the second quarter, wide to an open Houshmandzadeh in the end zone that same quarter, and was off-target to Johnson with no one behind the receiver defensively in the third quarter in snowy conditions.
"I felt fine," Palmer said. "I just didn't play well."
Another 75-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry was negated in the third quarter by an illegal shift call against the Bengals.
"They had the same mind-frame going back to when we played Seattle," said defensive end Kenard Lang, referring to the Broncos' previous home game Dec. 3. "The Seahawks had the three wides and Shaun Alexander. But the main thing is we had to try to hit them, attack them and try to make them fumble, which they did. But with (Palmer) in the spread offense, it puts pressure on you in a way where you can't make mistakes and have to be precise every time."
Palmer got his mojo back on Cincinnati's final drive. Taking over at his 10 with just less than 4 minutes remaining and with two timeouts, the Pro Bowl quarterback hit Houshmandzadeh for 26 yards and 22 yards on fourth down to move Cincinnati to the Broncos 24.
His scoring strike to Houshmandzadeh hit the receiver in the numbers over the middle.
"No matter what happened, we had to keep fighting," safety Curome Cox said. "They were going to make some plays, but when they didn't make them, we were going to make them, and that's what happened."