Week 12 Game Recap: Denver Broncos 24, Dallas Cowboys 21
What you need to know
The Broncos scored first in this game thanks to a 65 yard interception return for a touchdown courtesy of Champ Bailey (and Drew Bledsoe). They added a seven play 84 yard drive that culminated in a 20 yard Rod Smith touchdown reception on the second play of the second quarter and an eleven play 90 yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the second half. Take away the two long drives and the Broncos did very little in the game until overtime. In fact, after the third quarter scoring drive, the Broncos had only one first down for the remainder of regulation. Denver managed just 13 first downs for the game. After dominating time of possession last week against the Jets, the Broncos lost the time of possession battle by more than eleven minutes to the Cowboys. Still, Denver never trailed. The Broncos won the overtime coin toss and after a seven yard pass to Charlie Adams, Ron Dayne rumbled through the line on a 55 yard gain to the Dallas six yard line. Jason Elam kicked a 24 yard field goal on the next play and sent Cowboys’ fans home disappointed.
With Tatum Bell held out with a bruised sternum, it was Dayne who was the surprise star of the game for Denver. After not carrying the ball since week four, he finished with seven carries for 98 yards. Dayne scored one touchdown on a 16 yard run and set up the game winning field goal with his long jaunt in overtime.
Jake Plummer did not have one of his better games. He finished completing 15 of 24 for 162 yards and one touchdown pass. Denver’s offense struggled at times under Plummer’s direction. Plummer’s team record streak of passes thrown without an interception was ended at 229 by Terence Newman in the second quarter. He had not thrown an interception since week two against the Chargers. Plummer had a second potential interception dropped by Newman, who had a clear path to the end zone had he held the ball.
Mike Anderson had a critical fumble deep in Denver territory. The Cowboys converted it to a touchdown three plays later to tie the game at 21. Replay made it look unlikely that Terence Newman was able to corral the ball before going out of bounds, but coach Mike Shanahan, had already overzealously exhausted Denver’s challenges.
Denver’s defense put in a solid effort. In addition to Bailey’s interception, Nick Ferguson made a great diving catch on a Drew Bledsoe pass. The Broncos kept the Cowboys from establishing a consistent rushing attack and gave up only one big play, a 39 yard reception by Terry Glenn. Denver was hurt however, by a key offsides penalty that gave Dallas a second chance to convert a fourth and goal. On the second try, Drew Bledsoe was able to sneak in from the one yard line.
If not for a crucial missed 34 yard field goal by Billy Cundiff midway through the fourth quarter, Dallas might have won this game in regulation. Had Cundiff made the kick, the pressure certainly would have been squarely on the Denver offense, which had failed to generate a first down since its initial drive of the second half. However, Cundiff missed the kick wide left. Despite running 31 more plays, getting ten more first downs, and winning the time of possession skirmish by more than eleven minutes, Dallas would lose this game in overtime as Denver won the toss and would need only a short pass and a back-breaking 55 yard run by Ron Dayne to set up Jason Elam for the winning field goal.
The Cowboys never had the lead in this game, yet never trailed by more than seven points. Dallas answered each Denver touchdown with a touchdown of its own. Unfortunately, due to the NFL’s overtime rules, Dallas would not get a chance to answer Denver’s final score.
Jason Witten tied a career high with nine receptions. Witten and Keyshawn Johnson caught the Cowboys’ two touchdown passes from Drew Bledsoe, who also added a one yard quarterback sneak for a score. Bledsoe’s sneak came after an unsuccessful fourth and goal pass to Keyshawn Johnson, who made a one handed catch, but came down out of the end zone. Dallas received a reprieve on the play due to an offsides penalty on the Broncos.
Denver’s 90 yard scoring drive in the third quarter is the longest drive the Cowboys have given up all season.
Safety, Roy Williams, set up one of the Dallas touchdowns when he forced a Mike Anderson fumble inside the Denver ten yard line. Three plays later the Cowboys would knot the score for the last time.
What you ought to know
|QB Jake Plummer, Pass: 15 - 24 - 162 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 15 - 0|
Plummer started this game five for eleven for 70 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The touchdown pass was a 20 yard lob to a wide open Rod Smith, who had beaten cornerback, Terence Newman with a double move. Plummer put plenty of air under the ball and hit Smith nearly in stride in the end zone after Newman had bitten on Smith’s initial curl move. Plummer’s interception came on his eleventh pass of the day on a ball he probably should have thrown away. He had all kinds of time after a play action fake, but tried to force a deep pass to Ashley Lelie and was intercepted by Newman. The interception marked the end of Plummer’s team leading consecutive passes without an interception streak at 229. During the streak, Plummer threw 14 touchdown passes.
In the second half, Plummer was ten of 13 for 92 yards. He was four for four with 56 yards passing and added a key 14 yard scramble for a first down on Denver’s third quarter scoring drive. Plummer completed five of eight passes for 36 yards in the remainder of regulation. Though Plummer’s second half completion percentage was good, The Broncos were only able to gain one first down between their scoring drive and the end of regulation. Plummer’s only attempt in the overtime period went for a seven yard completion to Charlie Adams. Plummer was able to avoid a number of sacks by using his feet to buy extra time to throw. Plummer had a second potential interception dropped by Terence Newman, who would have scored had he held the football.
Anderson was coming off of a 26 carry 113 yard performance against the Jets and it was looking like he had developed a strong grasp primary running back in the Broncos’ backfield, especially with Tatum Bell sidelined by an injury. However, Anderson found the yardage tough to come by against Dallas, while Ron Dayne had his best game in years. With Dayne making a push to be used more in the mix, the Denver running back by committee picture became a bit fuzzier. Anderson did not help his cause by losing a key fumble after catching a short pass deep in Denver’s territory. Terence Newman recovered the football at the Broncos’ ten yard line and Dallas scored three plays later to tie the game at 21.
|RB Ron Dayne, Rush: 7 - 98 - 1, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)|
Dayne had not played in a game since week six, had not carried the football since week four, and had not surpassed eighty yards rushing since 2002. His last carry of the game went for more yards than he had previously amassed for the entire season (55-53). Dayne looked lighter and quicker than in his Giants’ days and made the most of his opportunity with runs of 14, 16, (touchdown), and 55 yards. Dayne also contributed his first two receptions of the season.
Johnson had a catch and run for 13 yards on a drag route across the Dallas defense.
Bell did not play due to a bruised sternum suffered in Sunday’s game against the Jets.
The reliable Smith led the Broncos in receptions for the fourth straight game. He also scored Denver’s first offensive touchdown, a 20 yard grab in the second quarter. In addition to his touchdown catch, Smith was targeted deep one other time.
Adams’ reception came on the first play of overtime.
Devoe was targeted on a deep route late in the fourth quarter. The pass was overthrown and he did a good job preventing Aaron Glenn, the defender, from intercepting the pass.
Lelie was targeted five times, but did not catch a pass. Lelie was targeted deep twice: The first pass was intercepted. The second time Lelie was not open and was overthrown.
Putzier led the Broncos in receiving yardage. His receptions went for 24, 21, 9, and 15 yards. All four of them resulted in Broncos’ first downs. Putzier also had a nine yard catch called back due to a holding penalty.
Elam was bothered by a sore calf that he injured in last Sunday’s warm-up. However, he hit all three of his extra points and the game winning 24 yard field goal with little trouble.
The Broncos’ rush defense did a great job. Dallas was never able to establish a consistent ground attack and finished with 85 yards on 32 carries for a 2.7 average. Julius Jones’ eleven yard gain was the longest run Denver allowed. D.J. Williams led the Broncos with seven tackles and an assist.
The Broncos’ pass defense gets mixed reviews. Drew Bledsoe passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense did force two interceptions. Champ Bailey returned the first 65 yards for a score. Nick Ferguson made a great diving catch on a Drew Bledsoe pass for the Broncos’ second interception. Other than a 39 yard reception by Terry Glenn, the Broncos did not give up any big plays. However, an offsides penalty by the Gerard Warren gave Dallas a second chance to convert a fourth and goal. Former Clemson standout, Trevor Pryce had the lone Broncos’ sack. Al Wilson injured a knee and was limping around, but played through the pain.
|QB Drew Bledsoe, Pass: 29 - 44 - 232 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 2 - 1|
If you take away the two interceptions, Bledsoe would have had a great day. He accounted for all three Dallas scores by throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Unfortunately, the Bailey interception resulted in a Denver touchdown. On that pass, Bledsoe was trying to hit backup tight end, Dan Campbell, on a quick out route and overthrew the pass. Bailey broke on the pass and was able to catch it in the clear for an easy return down the sideline. In Bledsoe’s defense, it looked like Campbell was not quick in getting into position on the route, but Bledsoe still could have opted to throw the ball away.
Bledsoe showed that he still has exceptional arm strength by rifling a number of balls throughout the game. Although not fast, Bledsoe did a nice job of feeling pressure from the Broncos and sliding within the pocket to buy time and avoid sacks.
Bledsoe’s one yard sneak was his second rushing touchdown of the season and the eighth of his career.
|RB Julius Jones, Rush: 20 - 55 - 0, Rec: 5 - 9 - 0 (6 targets)|
Jones managed only 55 yards on his 20 attempts. In general, he found the running room hard to come by as the Broncos did a good job of plugging the holes. Jones had a long gain of eleven yards. Jones contributed five receptions in the passing game, but his long reception was a six yard gain. The other four totaled three yards. Jones also dropped a short pass late in the game.
Barber gained only 28 yards on nine carries, but he fought hard for tough yardage on short runs. Though not an absolute pattern, the Cowboys appeared to prefer Julius Jones between the 20s and Barber in the red zone. Barber’s long gain was six yards.
Fullback, Lousaka Polite, had one reception out of the backfield.
Johnson was the Cowboys’ most targeted receiver and caught a fourteen yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. On the play, he was wide open, as Champ Bailey bit on a quick pump towards the running back and left Bledsoe with an easy throw. One of the Cowboys’ favorite plays was a quick out pass to Johnson, who would catch the ball and try to gain yardage after the catch. Twice, he turned the short gains into first downs with some nifty cuts. Johnson made a nice one handed catch on a fourth and goal play, but came down out of bounds. He also dropped one pass.
Glenn was targeted nine times and had five receptions. Most of his yardage came on a 39 yard strike from Bledsoe on a very deep crossing route. Glenn dropped a pass early in the game that would have gained 20+ yards. He was later targeted on an incomplete deep route.
Price was targeted twice on third down and moved the chains both times. It appears that at this stage in his career, Price is little more than a third down receiver.
Copper had his first reception of the season.
Witten was the Cowboys’ leading receiver; he caught everything thrown his way and tied his career high with nine receptions. Witten was Bledsoe’s security blanket and was key in helping Dallas move the chains. Witten scored the Cowboy’s final touchdown on a short pass from the four yard line.
Campbell was targeted twice, but did not catch a pass. Campbell’s first target was the quick out that Champ Bailey intercepted for a touchdown. It appeared that Campbell might not have broken outside quickly enough on the route.
In his second game back after recovering from a quadriceps injury, Billy Cundiff missed a key 34 yard field goal attempt that potentially could have avoided overtime and won the game for the Cowboys. The kick started wide left and never came back. Cundiff did hit all three extra point attempts.
The Cowboys allowed Denver 144 rushing yards on twenty carries for a whopping 7.2 yards per carry, but those numbers are a bit deceiving. 55 of those yards came on Ron Dayne’s clinching run in overtime. Prior to Dayne’s big gain, the Broncos had been limited to 89 yards on the ground. 25 of those came on two Jake Plummer scrambles. Leading rusher, Mike Anderson, was held to 31 yards on eleven carries and the Broncos had been experiencing trouble moving the chains. Dallas limited the Broncos to only 46 plays and won the time of possession battle by more than eleven minutes.
Here are the positives: The Cowboy pass defense limited Jake Plummer to 162 passing yards. Terence Newman intercepted Plummer for the first time since week two. The longest Broncos’ pass play of the day went for 24 yards to tight end, Jeb Putzier. Greg Ellis and Chris Canty each contributed a sack. Roy Williams had six tackles and an assist and a key forced fumble inside the Broncos ten yard line. Terence Newman recovered the ball and three plays later Dallas tied the score at 21. The biggest negative was allowing Rod Smith to get wide open for a 20 yard touchdown in the second quarter. Newman also dropped a potential interception that would have been a sure Cowboys’ touchdown. In sum, the Dallas pass defense put in a pretty good effort against the Broncos.