In a game that seemed more like an AFL shootout, the Denver Broncos played pitch and catch all night long against the Cleveland Browns defense and in the end overcame what at one point was a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to beat Cleveland and spoil Brady Quinn’s QB starting debut 34-30. The Broncos picked on Browns CB Brandon McDonald all night long, torching him for a 93-yard score to Eddie Royal that got Denver back in the game, and again on the game-winner to Brandon Marshall with 1:14 left to win it.
Jay Cutler led a Denver offense that put up a whopping 564 yards, as the QB threw for 24-for-42 for 447 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. His counterpart Quinn had a solid debut vs the 29th ranked defense in the league, as he threw for 239 yards on 23-for-35 passing with two touchdowns, both to tight end Kellen Winslow.
Cleveland trailed early 7-0 after a Ryan Torain TD, but quickly came back and tied it on Quinn’s first pro TD to Winslow from five yards out with 3:38 left in the first quarter to make it 7-7. After a Phil Dawson field goal made it 10-7 Cleveland in the second quarter, a Cutler pick quickly was turned into a Cleveland TD as Quinn hit Winslow again from 16 yards out to make it 17-7 with 10:29 left in the half.
The teams traded field goals to end the first half with Cleveland up 20-10. They added onto that lead with a 33-yard Dawson field goal with 10:21 left in the third to make it 23-10. Denver then came back with a Matt Prater field goal to again put it at a 10-point game at 23-13. The game turned from there, as Cutler and Royal hooked up for their long 93-yard score with 13:30 left to make it 23-20. McDonald made a swipe at the ball, but Royal was there for a great catch as he then outran the D for the score.
One drive later after a Winslow fumble, Cutler came back again, and that drive ended with a TD pass from 28 yards out to Daniel Graham to make it 27-23 with 9:50 left. Quinn and the Browns offense put together their best drive of the second half on their next drive, using some niffty passes and runs to take the ball to the one, where Jamal Lewis went in to give Cleveland the edge back at 30-27 with 4:57 left.
The Broncos game-winning drive started at their own 20. Cutler got the team to a 4th-and-one when Peyton Hillis went off end for a two-yard gain to keep the drive alive. A pass to Graham for 14 yards, then a Cutler called draw for 18 yards got them to the Browns 11 with 1:24 left. They then threw the same fade route twice to Marshall, and the second time it paid off for a score over McDonald to make it 34-30.
Cleveland’s final shot ended with a 4th-and-one and Winslow dropping a Quinn pass at the Browns 43 to put the icing on the cake and push Denver to a 5-4 record, good for first in the AFC West. Cleveland’s tailspin continues, as it’s the second time in five days they have blown a double digit lead in the second half. They fall to 3-6 on the season.
Many had felt that the Browns issues had to do with the play of former QB Derek Anderson, but in the end, it has to do a lot more with a defense that can make any struggling offense look good. While the Broncos needed a shot of offense and confidence, they got just that from a Cleveland team that after this night will be thinking more about 2009 than a playoff shot in 08.