No question that the Broncos were shorthanded, and shortlegged, and short-everything else. The team was severely hampered by injuries to key personnel like Elvis Dumervil and Brandon Lloyd, soon joined by Eddie Royal. But they also benefited from some key intangibles, including the ultimate home-field advantage: The last time Cincy won in Colorado was during the Gerald Ford administration (November 9, 1975). And while the Bengals don't appear to be the joke most observers figured they'd be going into the season, thanks to some unexpectedly zingy QB play from Andy Dalton, they're no one's idea of a powerhouse.
Moreover, fans' horror at Kyle Orton's dispiriting play in the opening loss to the Oakland Raiders offered an opportunity to rally not just for KO, but for the entire roster -- because another loss would have resulted in a nascent quarterback controversy coming into full bloom.
This eventuality was staved off, at least temporarily, thanks to a ground game that was just productive enough -- Willis McGahee gained 101 yards in the stead of the little-missed Knowshon Moreno -- and Orton's growing chemistry with Eric Decker, who snagged a pair of touchdown passes. And the defense, while hardly impressive during the second half, was just good enough to prevent the sort of comeback win that would have converted today into the sort of woe-is-us session with which last season was filled.
But the D was as susceptible to the pass against Cincinnati -- A.J. Green proved impressive and Jerome Simpson had a career day -- as it had been versus the run in the Oakland disaster. As a result, the defenders have a very good chance of getting torched next week against the Titans, who dismantled the seemingly fearsome Ravens yesterday, and especially the week-four opponent, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
If the Broncos don't make a decent showing against Tennessee and the Pack, the calls for Tebow will start echoing again. On Sunday, Timmy was essentially used as a decoy -- a strategy that will stop working as soon as opponents realize that his presence in a game doesn't automatically mean he'll come within yards of the ball. And a steady diet of this approach also piss off all those Broncos boosters who want to see Tebow under center, not split out wide because the wide receiver corps looks like a M*A*S*H unit.
Credit the Broncos with gutting one out yesterday. But be under no illusions that their first-place position will last.
Look below to see a Denver Post video featuring post-game commentary.
More from our Sports archive: "Broncos fans & tailgaters get best of Raiders lovers even if team doesn't (PHOTOS)."