|Date of game: 12/22/2014
Recap: Cincinnati vs. Denver
Cincinnati, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown and Dre Kirkpatrick posted two interceptions as the Cincinnati Bengals clinched a playoff spot for a fourth straight season with a 37-28 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday.
Andy Dalton completed 17-of-26 passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Bengals (10-4-1), who will battle Pittsburgh for the AFC North title on Sunday night.
"I'm very proud of our guys tonight for our resiliency, our ability to come back after negative plays and put positive plays and string them together," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "Obviously, things to work on and do, but we're still in position, still controlling our destiny, and that's all we can ask for at this point in the year."
Jermaine Gresham caught nine passes for 62 yards and a score and Giovani Bernard also hauled in a TD pass in the win.
Peyton Manning struggled throughout and was picked off four times while finishing with 311 yards and two scores on 28-of-44 passing for the Broncos (11-4), who had a four-game win streak come to an end.
C.J. Anderson rushed for 83 yards and a score on 18 carries, Emmanuel Sanders had two scores to go with 70 yards on six catches and Demaryius Thomas finished with seven catches for a game-high 115 yards in defeat.
"We just have to be more consistent for four quarters. You can't play well the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter - not play well in the first and not play well in the fourth," said Manning. "Against good football teams, you have to be more consistent and I have to play better as well."
New England clinched the first overall seed in the AFC due to Denver's loss.
Brandon Tate's 49-yard punt return helped set up Mike Nugent's 23-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 30-28 edge with 7:49 to play.
On the following Broncos drive, a facemask penalty wiped out Thomas' 27-yard catch, and Taylor Mays sacked Manning for a 6-yard loss to force a punt.
Denver got the ball back with four minutes remaining. On 3rd-and-1, Manning's throw was way off the mark as Kirkpatrick intercepted it and ran the ball back for a 30-yard score and a 37-28 lead with 2:41 to play.
After Manning was sacked, Anderson caught a short pass and ran it 20 yards for a first down prior to the two-minute warning. Two plays later, Manning hit Welker over the middle for a first down.
On 3rd-and-4, Anderson broke two tackles and ran for 27 yards, but Kirkpatrick picked off Manning again at the Bengals' 5 to seal the win.
After each team punted twice to start the game, A.J. Green tipped Dalton's pass up in the air and Aqib Talib made a diving one-handed grab and ran it back 33 yards for an early Broncos lead.
Green was hit hard on the play and was limited the rest of the game with a right arm injury.
On the next play from scrimmage, Hill bounced out to his right on a counter, shook off a tackle and darted 85 yards for a 7-7 game.
Hill's second-effort plunge on fourth down moved the chains to help set up Nugent's eventual 37-yard field goal less than five minutes into the second quarter.
Denver's woeful offensive start continued on the ensuing drive as Reggie Nelson ripped the ball out of Julius Thomas' hands for an interception, giving the Bengals the ball at their opponents' 25.
Dalton scrambled for gains of 10 and nine yards before lofting a pass to Gresham in the back of the end zone from two yards out to increase Cincinnati's lead to 17-7 with 7:56 to play in the first half.
A Ryan Clady holding call erased a 48-yard catch from Demaryius Thomas on Denver's next drive and halted all momentum after Anderson's 13-yard run moved the team near midfield.
The Bengals took over shortly after at their own 15. Bernard broke off a 23- yard run and also hauled in an 18-yard pass before Nugent was true from 49 yards out.
Manning and the Denver offense received the ball with 1:03 to play in the first half and cooly moved the ball 49 yards down the field in seven plays. Connor Barth, however, hooked his 49-yard attempt wide left as time expired.
Down 20-7 at halftime, Denver came storming out of the break. Omar Bolden returned the kickoff 77 yards down to the Bengals' 21, Demaryius Thomas made a 19-yard grab and Anderson ran the ball in from a yard out after a pass interference call to make it a 20-14 contest.
Adam Jones countered with an electric 80-yard return of his own to start the Bengals at their opponents' 27. Three plays later, Dalton dumped off a pass to Bernard, who ran through a defender and up the left sideline for a 22-yard score.
Sanders hauled in a deep 33-yard pass down to the Bengals' 15 before catching Manning's quick strike three plays later for a 4-yard touchdown and a 27-21 game with 9:08 to play in the third.
Cincinnati marched down the field into the red zone, but Von Miller stripped Hill of the ball and Denver took over at its own 9. Manning stepped up in the pocket and fired a 46-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas
After Thomas moved the chains again with a 15-yard catch down to the Bengals' 9, Sanders got past the Cincinnati secondary and put the Broncos ahead with a 5-yard score for a 28-27 lead with 1:29 remaining in the third.
Early in the fourth, Adam Jones picked off Manning and returned it to Denver's 23, but was flagged for taunting which drew the Bengals out of field goal position.Game Notes
The Broncos can clinch a first-round bye next week with a win over Oakland or
a Bengals loss ...It was Cincinnati's first win against Manning in nine tries
... Thomas passed Rod Smith for the most 100-yard receiving games in a single
season in franchise history with nine ... Manning threw four interceptions for
the first time since a 38-35 loss to Dallas on Dec. 5, 2010 as a member of the
Colts ... Hill's 85-yd TD run is the fourth rushing score over 80 yards ever
allowed by Denver. It was the first since Ahman Green in 2003 ... The Bengals
ended a four-game losing streak to the Broncos ... Denver outgained