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Scott Pianowski

Thursday Wrap: Quinn mighty, but Cutler laughs last; Torain likely out for season

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

Sharp offense, matador defense, lead changes, heroes and goats, one major injury and two announcers on top of their game - the premiere of Thursday Night Football left us plenty to talk about. Here's a look at what transpired.

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Browns Wrap: While no one deserves a medal for cutting up the Denver defense these days, Brady Quinn's debut was impressive, no doubt about it (23-for-35, 239 yards, two touchdowns). He didn't have any negative plays (no turnovers, no sacks), he was decisive on most snaps, he showed excellent pocket presence, and on several occasions he extended a play with his mobility. The Browns asked him to execute a very conservative game plan - Quinn didn't take any deep shots and threw very few intermediate passes - but there's nothing wrong with 30 points and a 104.3 rating from your first NFL start. Buffalo and Houston come next for the kid, then the major challenges hit: Indianapolis, Tennessee, Philadelphia. The Browns also play at Pittsburgh in Week 17.

Kellen Winslow clicked with Quinn right away and had his biggest game of the year (10 catches, 111 yards, two touchdowns). Unfortunately for Winslow, the evening also included three memorable mistakes: a pass interference penalty that wiped out a long Braylon Edwards gain; a critical fourth-quarter fumble (in fairness, the result of a monster strip from the Broncos); and a bad drop on Cleveland's final snap from scrimmage, a sharply-thrown pass that hit him right in the hands. Winslow was disconsolate after the game but his fantasy owners have to be thrilled; it clearly looks like he's the biggest winner from the switch to Quinn.

Edwards had another no-show night (one catch on six targets), and while part of that could be blamed on a lack of familiarity with Quinn, that didn't bother the Quinn-Winslow connection. Donte Stallworth made a modest impact (4-48) and Steve Heiden chipped in with three short receptions, in addition to a number of routes that picked off defenders for Winslow.

Jamal Lewis had his typical performance, 84 thoroughly-unimpressive yards and a short touchdown. He averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Jerome Harrison gave the Broncos fits with his speed (six touches, 57 yards), and probably should have played more in the second half. Joshua Cribbs added 48 yards on three rushes and as usual was a threat on kick returns.

Broncos Wrap: Looks like Jay Cutler's slump is over (24-for-42, 447 yards, three touchdowns, 29 rushing yards). He threw over and through the Browns all night, a brilliant mix of fastballs and change-ups, stick throws in tight and floaters between defenders. And the Broncos needed every last yard, because as usual his defensive teammates weren't doing much to stop anyone. Once again we're shown how a fantasy QB's best friend is a leaky defense on the other side.

Eddie Royal (six catches, 164 yards) had another big night, including the game's signature play, a 93-yard touchdown early in the fourth period that jump-started Denver's comeback. He's now got 52 catches over his first eight NFL games, a league record, and continues to be startable every week. Brandon Marshall (6-89) dropped a few passes and cost Cutler an interception on a route mistake, but he made up for it with the game-winning touchdown with 1:14 to play.

Tony Scheffler (4-92) had his moments, though he's clearly not over his groin injury and was hobbling most of the game. Daniel Graham (3-50) picked up a touchdown when the Browns back seven became allergic to tackling. Brandon Stokley didn't do much (2-16), other than convince Marshall not to take a 15-yard penalty after the final touchdown. Nate Jackson added three catches, and somehow got up and walked away after a hellacious Willie McGinest hit in the second half.

Ryan Torain hit the ground running (12-68, touchdown) and appeared to be worth the wait, but a knee injury knocked him out in the second period. The early prognosis isn't good; Adam Schefter is reporting that Torain may have a torn ACL. Selvin Young, like Scheffler, still isn't 100 percent; he managed just one carry before the club shut him and his groin down for the night.

By default Peyton Hillis, a rookie fullback, was left to become the fill-in starter at tailback. His final line (eight carries, 24 yards) doesn't look like much, but he had a critical conversion on fourth-and-one that kept the game-winning drive alive. Oddly, he wasn't used as a receiver after catching seven passes in Week 9. The Broncos will have to audition some street free agents between now and Week 11, but more than anything this figures to remain a pass-first offense the rest of the year.

Miscellaneous: I hope you caught the Bob Papa and Cris Collinsworth call on NFL Network; it was without a doubt the most enjoyable game I've listened to all season, smart and insightful throughout.

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