DENVER, Colo. - AJ McCarron did what he was supposed to do for the first 65 minutes of Monday night's 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos.
Not make a turnover.
Then on second-and-10 from the Cincinnati 33 he let a shot-gun slap slither through his hands, Denver recovered and the night that had started so well with a 14-0 lead was done. And so was the Bengals' best chance for a play-off bye.
"I felt like I let my team down," McCarron. "My fault. I told the guys that after the game."
McCarron said he took his eyes off center Russell Bodine's snap because he was watching to see how the Denver defense reacted to wide receiver A.J. Green going in motion.
The play was doubly painful. McCarron said he injured his left wrist going for the fumble. It was wrapped in his post-game news conference and it's not believed to keep him out. He said he's not sure how badly it's hurt and that he'll get it checked Tuesday. Andy Dalton isn't ready to come back, which leaves them with Keith Wenning for Sunday's finale against Baltimore at Paul Brown Stadium. He has yet to take an NFL snap. . . .
Left end Carlos Dunlap's three sacks gave him 13.5 for the season, which according to the NFL is the Bengals' team record, eclipsing Eddie Edwards' 13. But the club recognizes Coy Bacon's 22 sacks before it became an official stat in 1976 . . .
Green didn't have a catch in the second half after getting five for 57 in the first half with a touchdown. But he almost had a big one, a 34-yard bomb for a touchdown. It fell incomplete and Mike Nugent kicked a 52-yard field goal on the next play to tie it at 17 with 6:46 left in regulation.
Green slowed up his route at the 10, saw the ball high in the air, got going again and just missed it.
"That's on me," Green said. "They were doubling my side, but I usually convert that. I should have kept running. I should have just taken off. I messed up. He gave me a chance I want that every time. That was my fault." . . .
WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict got nailed with a tough 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty early in Denver's winning drive in overtime. It was a flag that had a lot people in the Bengals locker room seething. Burfict said he was simply trying to strip the ball from tight end Virgil Green at the end of an eight-yard completion, and when they ended up out of bounds he pulled away. But Burfict said Green flopped and that he was a victim of his reputation.
"I'm stripping the ball. The refs were late blowing the whistle all night," Burfict said. "They threw the flag late, when the dude flopped. The ref looked at me. Saw my number, then threw the flag. I can't control that. The refs obviously have it out for me, but you can't call a B.S. flag like that.
"I asked (referee) Ed Hochuli, 'Hey man what happened? No whistles were blown,'" Burfict said. "He said, 'Yeah, no whistles were blown.'But he said you hit him late. I said, 'What?'"
First down on the Bengals 44.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said it was on the other sideline, but he had a gut reaction.
"He's trying to tackle a guy and they are struggling; a lot of those things don't get called and they let it go," Lewis said. "Both sides are pushing. I don't think he does anything besides push the guy as he goes out of bounds; it happens all of the time. We'll see what happened on the tape." . . .
The Broncos had the ball for just 8:46 in the first half, so they wasted no time when they got the ball to open the second half. They went up-tempo and changed the pace of the game. Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler said the Broncos put out some stuff they hadn't seen on tape, but the biggest change was the faster pace.
"We felt like we got some stuff going at the end of the half doing that up-tempo stuff," said tight end Owen Daniels. "It looked like they were getting a little tired and they weren't moving quite as fast when we were doing it. We stuck to it and got some good things out of it. It was a nice change up. We didn't plan on doing that but it's good to know that we can adjust."
Dunlap agreed the Bengals were winded in the altitude, but he said it was because Denver was 4-for-8 on third down in the second half after going 0-for-3 in the first half.
"Anytime they're able to extend their drive like that, like they did, guys get winded," Dunlap said. "That's what they like to do here in the Mile High, they like to take advantage when you're on the edge and get those long drives, and we gave them one down the stretch. It is what it is now, we can't do anything about not but learn from it and make sure we don't make these mistakes when it counts." . . .
Another Denver adjustment, this one on defense. The Bengals rolled up 170 yards on their first two series, 124 for the rest of the game. On the first two drives the Bengals drilled their man coverage.
"They just started sagging off on us and they probably stopped playing man," said wide receiver Marvin Jones of the zone coverage. "That's pretty much it. They won, it was good on their part." . . .
Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, who beat the Patriots in overtime on a 48-yard touchdown run back on Nov. 29 at Mile High, also took out the Bengals with a 39-yard touchdown run that put Denver ahead, 17-14, with 11:17 left in the game. Not the same play, according to Osweiler. This was a zone play. A zone play on which safety Reggie Nelson says he should have made the tackle.
Defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry had the first shot at Anderson at the line of scrimmage and missed him. Then Anderson got to the second level and appeared to split Nelson and cornerback Adam Jones.
"I've got to make that tackle," Nelson said. "He just kept bouncing it and bouncing it (outside)."
How rare was that? It was the longest run the Bengals have allowed since the Steelers' DeAngelo Williams went for 55 yards back on Nov. 1 . . .
The Bengals came into the game leading the NFL in scoring defense. They've now allowed 263 points. If they give up 20 points or less in the finale against Baltimore, they'll set the Bengals' record for least points allowed in a 16-game season . . .
Cincinnati Bengals travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in week 16 of the regular season