Dec 22, 2014 9:20 PM
Broncos, Bengals tied 7-7 after 1st quarter
The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) Aqib Talib returned Andy Dalton's too-high pass for a touchdown and Jeremy Hill countered with an 85-yard touchdown run on Monday night, leaving the Broncos and Bengals tied 7-7 after the first quarter.
It was another rough start to a night game for Dalton, who came in 2-6 career during prime time. The longest run of Hill's rookie season helped Cincinnati keep pace in a game with playoff implications for both teams.
The Broncos had clinched the AFC West and could earn a first-round playoff bye with a victory over the Bengals. They also needed a win to stay in the running with New England for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Bengals had a lot at stake as well. A win would clinch a fourth straight playoff berth, a franchise first, and keep them a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead. The title will be decided head-to-head next Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
With two night games in six days, the Bengals had a chance to get beyond or reinforce their reputation for falling apart under the lights. They were 18-41 all-time in prime time, including 10-20 on Monday nights, heading into the game. They'd been blown out by New England and Cleveland in their two night games this season.
Peyton Manning was sick and strained his right thigh during a 22-10 win over San Diego a week earlier and was limited in practice during the week. He started and completed a 21-yard pass on the first play. He was 3 of 5 for 30 yards in the quarter.
Manning came in 8-0 against the Bengals with 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He'd thrown at least three touchdown passes in five of those eight games.
By contrast, Dalton had plenty to prove. He had one of his worst games during a 24-3 loss to Cleveland on a Thursday night, throwing three interceptions and finishing with a passer rating of 2.0.
Dalton overthrew A.J. Green on Cincinnati's second possession, and Talib made a diving interception and a 33-yard return for his sixth touchdown since 2009. Safety T.J. Ward hit Green's upper right arm after he missed the high throw, and the receiver was on the sideline for the next two series before returning with the upper arm wrapped.
Hill took a handoff, slipped out of the grasp of Todd Davis and went 85 yards for a tying touchdown against the NFL's second-stingiest run defense. The Broncos hadn't allowed a run of more than 27 yards this season.
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