Broncos offensive line deserves some credit for comeback vs. Bengals

Denver Broncos play four great quarters
Dec 28, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) throws a pass during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

In the hours leading up to the Broncos matchup with Cincinnati on Monday Night Football, Bengals radio color commentator Dave Lapham joined Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro on Mile High Sports AM 1340, where he said the game would come down to the guys in the trenches (where he played), and that the advantage on the offensive line would ultimately go to the Bengals.

He was right about one thing. The offensive lines both played critical roles in the game, but in the end it was the Broncos offensive line that held up the longest against the pass and created the most running room for the Denver backs, specifically C.J. Anderson.

Perhaps it was the high altitude, or perhaps it was the grind of Gary Kubiak‘s zone blocking scheme finally taking its toll on Cincy’s defense, but the Broncos flipped the script on the Bengals from the first half to the second half.

In the first half, Cincinnati not only dominated on the scoreboard, they dominated time of possession, yardage and just about every other statistical category. But as the game wore on, Denver moved into a hurry-up offense which took some gas out of the Bengals defense and the Cincinnati offensive line could not hold up to the sustained pressure coming from the Denver pass rush.

In the second half and overtime, the Bengals punted five times, including three drives that went three-and-out. Only one possession went for more than six plays – a field goal. Denver only registered two sacks on A.J. McCarron, but he was hit an additional six times and completed only four passes of more than 10 yards in the half. On the final possession of the game, Von Miller got a hit on McCarron that nearly ended the game with a fumble, The ongoing pressure got to the young QB and forced a muffed snap on the very next play, which DeMarcus Ware recovered to seal the win.

On the Broncos side of the ball, meanwhile, Brock Osweiler completed eight passes for more than 10 yards in the second half, including several crucial third-down conversions. Of the three sacks Denver surrendered on the day, only one was in the second half – on the first play of Denver’s second possession. Despite pressure, Osweiler got the protection he needed and moved around enough in the pocket enough to buy his receivers time to get open.

Additionally, the line finally got in-sync on the running game, freeing Anderson for 73 yards on nine carries, including a 39-yard touchdown run. Ronnie Hillman added 35 yards of his own and Osweiler had another five to put Denver over the 100-yard mark for the eighth time this year. It was the fifth time in six games Denver has crossed the century plateau.

On social media, however, only half the tale was told. We’ve filled you in on what transpired in the second half. Here’s what folks in the Denver media was saying about the two offensive lines as the first half unfolded…

On protection for A.J. McCarron…

On protection for Brock Osweiler…

Only one of those observers changed his tune in the second half…

Ultimately, it was the Broncos who won those battles in the trenches (on both sides). Although not many outside observers bothered to mention it.