A wild play turned the Denver Broncos’ season opener into a stunning victory. First-year coach Josh McDaniels might prefer a bit more efficient approach Sunday when the Broncos host the Cleveland Browns, a team they haven’t lost to in almost 19 years.
The pass from Orton was originally intended for receiver Brandon Marshall(notes), but the Bengals’ Leon Hall(notes) tipped the ball into the air and it fell to Stokley, who completed the 87-yard scoring sequence - the longest winning play from scrimmage in the final minute of a game in NFL history.
“We certainly didn’t do everything we wanted to do the way we wanted to do it,” McDaniels said. “But we did do enough things well enough for us to be in it late in the game and give ourselves an opportunity to make a play.”
One of most glaring problems for Denver came midway through the fourth quarter, as the offense sputtered in attempting to extend a six-point lead while on the Bengals’ 24. The line committed two penalties and Orton took a sack on sequential plays to move the Broncos out of Matt Prater’s(notes) field goal range.
“That whole series was bad football,” McDaniels said.
The defense didn’t do much better on Cincinnati’s ensuing possession, allowing the Bengals to march 91 yards to get the go-ahead TD with 38 seconds to play.
“We weren’t on the field enough offensively to prevent that,” McDaniels said of Cincinnati’s long scoring drive. “We’ve got to have the ball for more than 26 minutes offensively if we want our defense to hold up as the game goes on. We’ve got to play better complementary football on both sides.”
Orton may need to show some improvement as the Broncos attempt to start 2-0 for a third consecutive season. The quarterback had 156 passing yards prior to Stokley’s long TD and finished completing 17 of 28 passes while getting sacked three times.
He could use some help from Marshall, who had four catches for 27 yards after missing most of the preseason recuperating from hip surgery, protesting his contract and serving a team-imposed suspension.
The Broncos, who went 4-4 at Invesco Field last season, have won eight in a row against Cleveland dating to a 30-29 home loss Oct. 8, 1990.
Quinn, the Browns’ 2007 first-round pick, beat Derek Anderson(notes) for the starting job but struggled against the Vikings until putting together a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 26-yard TD pass to Robert Royal(notes) with 28 seconds to go. That snapped Cleveland’s six-game drought without an offensive touchdown.
Quinn was 15 of 28 for 117 yards with an interception and a 49.3 rating before the final drive. He finished completing 21 of 35 passes for 205 yards.
“There were a lot of things Brady did that I liked,” Mangini said. “What I’m looking for - what I’m looking for from the group - is for him to be able to identify those areas that need to be improved and then going out, working on it and seeing that improvement.
“Anytime you have younger players there are going to be some things you have to work through and keep improving. Brady will continue to grow.”
Quinn, who has four career starts, may need to find wide receiver Braylon Edwards(notes) more often after he had one catch for 12 yards against the Vikings. Jamal Lewis(notes) played well, rushing for 57 yards on 11 carries, but he’s been limited in practice due to a neck injury and his status for this game is unclear.
The Browns could also shore up the run defense after giving up 225 yards on the ground compared to 85 passing. The defense, though, did manage four sacks.
This matchup features McDaniels’ first meeting with Mangini. Both coaches were assistants under Bill Belichick in New England, where they helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls.