Monday, December 22, 2008
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Illini basketball season could be an adventure worth pursuing

Broncos can't close out division, fall to Bills

Send a link to a friend

[December 22, 2008]  DENVER (AP) -- Now it all comes down to a trip to San Diego for the right to represent the woeful AFC West in the playoffs.

The Broncos blew an early 13-0 lead and lost to the Buffalo Bills 30-23 Sunday in the second-coldest game in Denver's history, setting up an all-or-nothing game against the Chargers next week for the division title and a playoff berth.

The Broncos (8-7) led the Chargers (7-8) by three games with three to go, but now face the possibility of having led the West by themselves from opening weekend through Christmas with nothing to show for it.

The Chargers beat Tampa Bay earlier in the day in a game that was blacked out at Invesco Field by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who didn't want his team's emotional edge affected by San Diego's fortunes.

Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler threw for 359 yards and broke Jake Plummer's franchise record with 4,210 yards for the season, but Kawika Mitchell's interception at the goal line when the Broncos were going in for the tying touchdown with less than six minutes left is what Cutler will surely remember most about this game.

Denver forced a punt and had one more chance. Moving downfield with an empty backfield, the Broncos reached the Bills 15 where, on fourth-and-5, cornerback Reggie Corner knocked the ball out of Brandon Stokley's hands in the end zone.

The Bills are the fourth out of the last five visitors to Invesco Field to leave with a win.

The Broncos, who lost two more running backs from their battered backfield, built a 13-0 lead only to watch Trent Edwards score on a 2-yard keeper and Rian Lindell kick field goals of 37, 49 and 28 yards as Buffalo (7-8) surged ahead 16-13 in the third quarter.

It was back and forth the rest of the way.


The Broncos went 84 yards in nine plays to retake the lead at 20-16 on Cutler's 6-yard keeper, the only run of the drive.

The celebratory mood among the frozen fans, who endured temperatures that dipped into the single digits, ended quickly when Fred Jackson's 65-yard catch set up Steve Johnson's 3-yard touchdown grab that put Buffalo back on top, 23-20.

After Matt Prater's 43-yarder tied it with 11 minutes left, the Broncos again were burned by a squibbed kickoff and Jackson's 8-yard touchdown run made it 30-23 with 8:54 left.

[to top of second column]

Funeral Director

The Broncos dominated the first half, outgaining Buffalo 268 yards to 95 -- including an edge of 213 to minus-2 in the first quarter -- but they led just 13-10 at halftime after settling for two chip-shot field goals by Prater and a big strategic blunder by Shanahan.

Rather than sending in the punt team on fourth down at the Buffalo 36, Shanahan sent in Prater, who had converted all five of his tries from 50-plus but was well short on a 54-yarder.

That gave the Bills great field position and they drove down the field, pulling to 13-10 on Marshawn Lynch's 2-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds left before halftime. Lynch later left with a shoulder injury.

Cutler capped a crisp opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and Denver's defense made a statement on its first series when star cornerback Champ Bailey had an immediate impact in his return from a torn groin that cost him two months.

Bailey got the tackle on the first snap, then waylaid Edwards for his second career sack and his first since his rookie year in 1999. He also forced a fumble that Lynch recovered.

P.J. Pope became the sixth tailback to start in the Broncos' battered backfield -- and he went to the sideline in the first quarter with a tight left hamstring. Selvin Young came in and carried the load until leaving with a pinched nerve in his neck late in the third quarter, leaving Bell as the only healthy ball carrier.

The 17-degree temperature at kickoff marked the second-coldest game on record ever played in Denver. The only one colder was the Broncos' game against San Diego on Dec. 10, 1972, when it was 9 degrees.

[Associated Press; By ARNIE STAPLETON]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

< Sports index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor