Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tebow plays receiver as Broncos hold on to a 24-22 win over the Cincinnati Bengals

Early in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver Broncos wide receiver Eddie Royal went down with a groin injury, leaving second year receiver Eric Decker and Matthew Willis as the Broncos only two remaining active receivers (Brandon Lloyd and Demaryius Thomas did not dress due to injuries).

Faced with a wide receiver dilemma, coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy turned to... Co-No. 2 quarterback Tim Tebow.

Per ESPN's Chris Mortenson, Tebow had asked earlier in the week to practice with the scout team offense as wide receiver instead of just stand around. Fox said Tebow hadn't practiced the position at all during the week but that the coaches had told him to be ready in case of injuries.

Tebow was ready and got the call in the first quarter. The Broncos used the former Florida Heisman Trophy winner as the third receiver, basically a decoy to the defense. Denver ran on most plays Tebow was on the field (and yes, he blocked well) and threw several times, but never in Tebow's direction.

Kudos go out to Tebow for being willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field (we were wondering why he was wearing two gloves when he usually doesn't even wear one) and a shout out to Fox and McCoy for finding a way to get him involved in the offense. It will be interesting to see if Tebow's role in the offense expands down the stretch.

Starting quarterback Kyle Orton may have also at least quieted the calls for his head, as the veteran quarterback went 15-of-25 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were thrown to second year receiver Eric Decker. After two games, Decker now had 8 catches for 166 yards and two receiving touchdowns to compliment his 5 punt returns that went for 125 yards and another score.

Joining Orton and Decker as the main offensive weapons Sunday was running back Willis McGahee, who added a physical punch that Denver's rushing attack has been missing for years. McGahee rushed 28 times for 101 yards and one touchdown, marking the first time a Broncos running back has rushed for 100 yards or more in a game since Knowshon Moreno did it last November.

The offensive line and fullback Spencer Larsen did an excellent job of paving rushing lanes for McGahee, after a dismal week-one effort against the Raiders when McGahee averaged less than one yard per rush. Larsen added one rush for four yards and three catches for twenty-three yards while the offense line helped produce 326 yards of total offense.

While the offense looked improved, Denver's defense won the game. The Broncos defense twice stopped Cincinnati's offense late in the fourth quarter, helping the Broncos hold on to a two-point lead. Special teams captain Wesley Woodyard started at linebacker in the place of D.J. Williams (elbow) and led the team with thirteen tackles.

Rookie linebacker Von Miller recorded three tackles and his first career sack, while defensive back Jonathan Wilhite and defensive end Robert Ayers forced a key sack and quarterback hurry respectively to keep the Bengals offense out of field goal range late in the game.

The 24-22 victory marks John Fox's (1-1) first career win with the Broncos, which is more impressive when you consider the fact that the team was without cornerback Champ Bailey, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, defensive tackle Marcus Thomas and linebacker D.J. Williams due to respective injuries.

The Broncos are in good standing in the AFC West after the Oakland Raiders (1-1) fell to the Buffalo Bills 38-35, the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) fell to the Detroit Lions 48-3 and the San Diego Chargers (1-1) fell to the New England Patriots 35-21 in Week Two.

The Broncos will travel to Tennessee next week to take on the Titans. The Broncos will need to heal up on offense, do a better job of scoring and take care of the football if they want to keep winning. For now, cautious optimism is to be expected from Broncos fans.

Photos used in this article were courtesy of Getty Images and Reuters Pictures.

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