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(Sunday, September 13th)
Final Score: Denver 12, Cincinnati 7
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) - Brandon Stokley grabbed a tipped pass off a Cincinnati defender's hands and sprinted the distance for an 87-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Denver Broncos shocked the Bengals, 12-7, in the season opener for both teams at Paul Brown Stadium.
After the Bengals grabbed a 7-6 lead on Cedric Benson's one-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left, Denver started on its own 13-yard line. Kyle Orton's first pass fell incomplete, then on the next play, the former Chicago signal- caller threw to the far sideline and his underthrown pass was batted in the air by Leon Hall.
Stokley picked the ball out of mid-air and sprinted down the sideline, but before crossing the goal line, the heads-up wide receiver slowed down to deliberately take extra time off the clock. After the two-point conversion failed, Denver was up 12-7.
"So much went through my head," Stokley said of the game-winning score. "I didn't know if somebody was right behind me. I thought just get what you can and then I started thinking if you get caught in bounds, I forgot if we had timeouts left and then when I got by the goal line I saw one of their players kind of pull up so I just decided to take it down to the goal line and waste some time."
Carson Palmer's desperation heave on the final play of the game was intercepted by Tony Scheffler as time expired.
"We didn't do enough things correct to win this football game," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. "So we need to come out about 4:00 tomorrow a better football team than we are. That means playing with poise throughout all the adverse situations that occur in a game."
Orton, who was acquired along with two first-round draft picks from Chicago for Jay Cutler in the offseason, passed for 243 yards on 17-of-28 efficiency.
Matt Prater connected on two field goals for Denver (1-0), which finished the 2008 season with an 8-8 record. Correll Buckhalter rushed for 46 yards on eight carries and Daniel Graham had three catches for 40 yards in the win.
It marked the first career win for 32-year-old head coach Josh McDaniels, who took over for the fired Mike Shanahan.
Palmer, who missed the majority of the 2008 campaign with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow, finished 21-of-33 for 247 yards and two interceptions.
Chad Ochocinco had five receptions for 89 yards, while Benson rushed for 76 yards and a score for the Bengals (0-1), who ended last season at 4-11-1.
Cincinnati could have taken a lead late in the opening quarter on a short field-goal attempt, but holder Kevin Huber let the snap go through his hands and Denver took over near midfield. Each team continued to struggle offensively afterward.
The Broncos opened the scoring on the last play of the half when Prater booted a 48-yard field goal, capping a nine-play, 52-yard drive. Starting at its own 18, Denver quickly moved it to the 48, then Orton connected with Jabar Gaffney for 21 yards down to the Bengals 31. After an incompletion and one-yard run by Buckhalter, Denver had to settle for the three as time expired.
Offensive ineptitude continued in the third, but another Prater effort, this time from 50 yards away, put Denver in front 6-0 with 14 seconds left in the period.
Starting at their own nine with 6:21 to play, Palmer guided the Bengals down to the Denver 32 at the two-minute warning, then found Brian Leonard for 18 yards. Two short passes to Andre Caldwell took it to the one-yard line before Benson banged in for the score. The extra point allowed Cincinnati to go ahead 7-6 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Broncos have won 17 of 25 lifetime meetings...Denver will play its 2009 home opener against Cleveland next Sunday, while Cincinnati visits Green Bay...Cincinnati's Antwan Odom finished with two sacks.
09/13 20:31:35 ET
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