Cutler rallies Broncos past Quinn, Browns
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
CLEVELAND ” The spotlight started out pointing directly at Brady Quinn.
A few hours later, Jay Cutler shined in its glow.
Left with only a rookie fullback in the backfield, Denver’s cocky quarterback with the Elway-esque arm passed for a career-high 447 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter Thursday, as the Broncos rallied for a 34-30 over the Browns to wreck Quinn’s debut as an NFL starter.
Cutler picked apart Cleveland’s secondary for 204 yards in the final 15 minutes, connecting with Brandon Marshall for an 11-yard TD with 1:14 left as the Broncos (5-4) snapped a three-game losing streak while handing the Browns (3-6) a second straight gut-wrenching loss.
Denver entered the fourth trailing 23-13, but Cutler, who has been in a slump for weeks, looked like a young John Elway and brought the Broncos back as his predecessor often did.
“He’s a great quarterback with a great arm,” Broncos rookie wide receiver Eddie Royal said.
Cutler, who recently boasted that he had a stronger arm “hands down” than Elway, had his fifth career fourth-quarter comeback win despite losing two more running backs to injuries.
In the fourth, Cutler threw a 93-yard TD pass to Royal, a 28-yarder to tight end Daniel Graham and then finished off the Browns with his toss to Marshall, who beat cornerback Brandon McDonald in the corner of the end zone.
The Broncos, who beat Cleveland for the eighth straight time, have long been the Browns’ nemesis ” Elway beat them three times in AFC title games.
Cutler finished 24-of-42 with one interception despite having to use fullback Peyton Hillis as his primary ball carrier after the Broncos lost running backs Ryan Torian and Selvin Young to injuries.
“It was fun,” Cutler said. “You guys have been on us a little bit, especially me, and that’s fine. But this team is still in it.”
The Browns are as good as done.
Earlier this week, coach Romeo Crennel benched starting QB Derek Anderson in favor of Quinn, who waited 25 games for his chance to run Cleveland’s offense and looked good in throwing two first-half TD passes to Kellen Winslow, who caught 10 passes for 111 yards.
Quinn finished 23-of-35 for 239 yards, but thought he could have done more.
“I told everyone, this one is flat on me,” Quinn said. “I know I am good enough that I can make a play at the end and win. I felt comfortable out there, it’s my home away from home.”
After hauling in Cutler’s final TD pass, Marshall, who spent the week exchanging barbs with Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter, was about to pull something out of his pants when teammate Brandon Stokley ran over and stopped him from getting a possible personal foul.
After the game, Marshall said he had a black-and-white glove designed to honor President-elect Barack Obama and former Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who made controversial black power salutes at the 1968 Games in Mexico City.
“I wanted to make my own statement and to represent the progress we’ve made,” Marshall said. “I might get some criticism, but social landmarks are bigger than fines to me, especially two days after a historical election.”
Following Marshall’s TD, Quinn had one last chance.
The former Notre Dame star completed a 9-yard pass to Winslow on first down before two incompletions. On fourth down, Quinn whipped a high pass to Winslow that sailed through the hands of the Pro Bowl tight end.
“I just can’t get that last play out of my head,” Winslow said. “The great ones, the legends make those plays. That’s where I want to be and I’m going to take it as a lesson.”
Denver’s bench burst into celebration while the Browns walked off their field dejected for the second time in five days. On Sunday, they blew a 14-point lead in the second half and lost to Baltimore.
Quinn had the Browns in position to win, but once again Cleveland’s defense couldn’t get a stop as Denver racked up 564 total yards.
“It’s disappointing that your defense does some of the simple things wrong and poorly,” said Crennel. “A 93-yard touchdown pass should never happen ” ever. Missed tackles. Tight ends making plays in the middle of coverage. Those things shouldn’t happen.”
Royal had six catches for 164 yards and Marshall caught six passes for 89 yards.
With starter Michael Pittman and backup Andre Hall already out with season-ending injuries, Torain, a rookie, made his first start with Young as his backup.
Torain scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter but sprained his left knee midway through the second when he got bent backward underneath a pile. He was replaced by Young, who gained 2 yards on his first carry but left a few plays later with a groin injury.
The Broncos were forced to go with Hillis, and the rookie from Arkansas came through on Denver’s final scoring drive by picking up a crucial first down on 4th-and-1.
From there, Cutler completed a 14-yard pass to Graham before catching the Browns off guard with a quarterback draw for 18. After missing Marshall in the end zone on first down, Cutler had his wideout run the same route against McDonald for the game-winner.
Earlier, McDonald was burned by Royal for the 93-yard TD, the fourth-longest in Denver history.
“Jay threw it out there,” Royal said. “Whenever he does that, I just try to make a play.”
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