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Dec 22, 2014 11:07 PM

Broncos lead Bengals 28-27 after 3rd quarter

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) Peyton Manning shook off a poor first half by throwing for a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, rallying the Denver Broncos to a 28-27 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals after three quarters on Monday night.

Denver scored 21 points in the quarter, with Manning throwing a pair of touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders. Manning was 12 of 16 for 168 yards in the quarter, which ended in a heavy rain.

Demaryius Thomas had a 46-yard catch during Denver's 91-yard yard touchdown drive to take the lead. He topped 100 yards receiving for the ninth time this season, a club record.

Andy Dalton settled down after a huge early mistake an overthrown pass returned for a touchdown and rookie Jeremy Hill led a dominating running game that gave the Bengals a 20-7 halftime lead. Hill had an 85-yard touchdown run as he topped 1,000 yards for the season.

Aqib Talib returned Dalton's too-high pass for an early touchdown, but Hill steadied Cincinnati offense in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

The Bengals' running game made the difference, piling up 166 yards in the half the most that Denver had allowed in any game this season. Hill ran for 107 yards in the half, his fourth 100-yard game.

The Broncos had clinched the AFC West and could earn a first-round playoff bye with a victory over the Bengals. They 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. They will play in Pittsburgh next Sunday night, with the winner earning the AFC North title.

With two night games in six days, the Bengals had a chance to either 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. They'd been blown out by New England and Cleveland in their two night games this season.

The Broncos' biggest concern was Manning, who was sick and strained his right thigh during a 22-10 win over San Diego a week earlier. After being limited in practice all week, he was 9 of 15 for only 88 yards with an interception in the half.

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. He was nearly perfect while getting the third-quarter lead.

By contrast, Dalton had plenty to prove with his 2-6 mark in prime time.

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 in and out of the lineup for the rest of the game, favoring his arm.


Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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