‘Stokley down the sideline’ and other wacky Broncos-Bengals finishes

Whenever the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals get together, strange things happen.

This Sunday, the two teams will meet for the 30th time. The Broncos and Bengals first met in 1968, a matchup the Bengals won 24-10. Since then, the Broncos have overtaken the series in overwhelming fashion, holding a 20-9 record.

But despite the Broncos’ dominance, recent history of the matchup has had some very strange occurrences and circumstances. From botched snaps to “Stokley down the sideline,” here’s a look back at some of the stranger endings to the games of late.

December 24, 2006
Bengals 23, Broncos 24 

The two teams met up on a Christmas Eve afternoon in Denver with both vying for a Wild Card playoff spot. The back-and-forth affair came down to the fourth quarter, where Jason Elam kicked a field goal to put the Broncos up 24-17. On the Bengals’ final drive of the game, quarterback Carson Palmer marched the team down the field, scoring a touchdown on a pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 43 seconds left. With all the momentum, the Bengals were an extra point away from tying and sending the game to overtime. Then, long snapper Brad St. Louis sailed the ball past holder Kyle Larson, muffing the extra point. The Broncos recovered an onside, took a knee and the win on the Christmas Eve miracle.

September 13, 2009
Broncos 12, Bengals 7

A wildly different-looking Broncos team, now coached by Josh McDaniels, took the field the opening week with newly acquired quarterback Kyle Orton to lead the way for the offense. Despite Orton throwing for 243 yards on the day, the offense stalled when it mattered, forcing kicker Matt Prater to hit long field goals. Meanwhile, the Broncos defense held the Bengals scoreless through the first 59 minutes of the game. Unfortunately, Cincinnati scored late — a touchdown with 41 seconds left — to put the Bengals up 7-6. Eddie Royal returned a kick to the 17-yard line, and Orton threw an incomplete pass on first down, leaving the Broncos with 34 seconds to go 83 yards (or at least get into Prater’s field goal range). They only needed one play. A pass intended for Brandon Marshall was tipped by Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, but fell into the hands of Brandon Stokley, who took it all the way for a touchdown, leaving five seconds on the clock. The “Immaculate Deflection” allowed the Broncos to walk away with a 12-7 victory.

September 18, 2011
Bengals 22, Broncos 24

The game wasn’t so strange as were the circumstances surrounding it. By the end of Denver’s 24-22 victory the Broncos had 10 injured players, including six starters. In the second half, with injuries to receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Julius Thomas, backup quarterback Tim Tebow had to re-dress and line up at receiver for several plays, although he had no targets and no receptions. Instead, Eric Decker led the way with two touchdowns and 115 yards. Broncos linebacker Von Miller also recorded his first sack as an NFL pro.

December 28, 2015
Bengals 17, Broncos 20

The Bengals and Broncos faced off twice with Peyton Manning at the helm, splitting wins in 2012 and 2014. The third game of the era turned into a battle of the backups. With Brock Osweiler leading the way, the Broncos welcomed Cincinnati looking to clinch a playoff spot in a tale of two halves. The Bengals were also playing their backup, A.J. McCarron, who put the Bengals up 14-3 by the end of the first half. Osweiler brought the Broncos back in the second half, scoring two touchdowns, but the Bengals responded with a field goal to tie the game and force overtime. The Broncos won the first possession, kicking a field goal to go up 20-17. After the kickoff, McCarron lined up to lead his team in their responding drive. On the second play, McCarron fumbled the snap, allowing DeMarcus Ware to fly by the offensive line and recover the fumble, ending the game with a 20-17 Broncos win. The Broncos would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl that year.

November 19, 2017
Bengals at Broncos

Now, with the Broncos and Bengals both sitting at 3-6, the teams match up again. Osweiler, who found his way back to Denver after stints in Houston and Cleveland, looks to lead the Broncos to their 21st win in the series while Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looks to get his second win against the Broncos and the team’s 10th overall against Denver. Given their recent history, things could get wacky.