Fourth-year quarterback Brandon Allen sparked Denver’s stagnant offense, throwing for two touchdowns in his first career NFL start and leading the Broncos past the stumbling Cleveland Browns 24-19 Sunday.
“We’re not ready to put him in Canton yet, but overall very pleased with his play,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
In his first start in 1,402 days, Allen threw a 21-yard pass to Courtland Sutton and a 75-yarder to rookie tight end Noah Fant , and Phillip Lindsay ran nine times for 92 yards and a touchdown.
The Broncos (3-6) didn’t truncate the playbook with Joe Flacco (neck) on injured reserve, and Allen threw for 193 yards on 12-of-20 passing.
Allen actually added a wrinkle to an offense that Flacco, before going on IR with a neck injury, criticized as too conservative last week. Allen added roll-outs and bootlegs to the mix, running twice for 16 yards. Denver hasn’t seen much mobility in the pocket from its quarterbacks since Tim Tebow’s tenure.
Denver’s defense stifled Baker Mayfield & Co. all afternoon, forcing the Browns (2-6) to settle for four short field goals and twice stuffing them on fourth down. The first stop came at the Denver 5-yard line and again at the Broncos 28 to get the ball back with 3:19 remaining and the Browns out of timeouts.
Lindsay gained 16 yards on a direct snap to gain the first down and allow the Broncos to go into victory formation.
Allen’s first NFL action came in his fourth season in the league.
“It’s tough and there’s a lot of guys that will tell you, this league is tough,” Allen said. “You get cut, traded, waived, whatever, it’s all about perseverance and getting that opportunity to see what you can do. And a lot of guys don’t even get that opportunity, so I feel blessed.”
Nick Chubb was held to 65 yards on 20 carries, and Mayfield finished with 273 yards passing.
Browns receivers Jarvis Landry (six catches for 51 yards) and Odell Beckham Jr. (five catches for 87 yards) were forced to change their colorful cleats at halftime to conform to the league’s dress code.
Allen not only gave Denver a jolt, but he stood the pocket to absorb a big hit on the long touchdown to Fant. Left tackle Garett Bolles, who drew two more flags, whiffed on Olivier Vernon and the defensive end crushed Allen just as he got the pass off.
Vernon looked up only to see Fant slipping three tackles before crossing midfield and sprinting down Denver’s delirious sideline.
The Broncos, the first team since the Browns in 2010 to play a game without a single quarterback on their active roster who had taken a snap in a regular season game, turned to Allen for his first start since he led Arkansas over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2, 2016.
Denver took a 17-12 halftime lead by holding Cleveland to four field goals
“It’s tough to win in the NFL when you only score three,” Beckham said.
Twice in the second half, the Broncos held on fourth down.
Todd Davis stuffed Mayfield on a fourth-and-inches sneak at the Denver 5-yard line in the third quarter, after which Allen directed a seven-play, 95-yard drive, which Lindsay capped with a 30-yard touchdown run.
The Broncos stiffened again when Chris Harris Jr. broke up a pass to Beckham on third-and-6 from the 18, but officials flagged safety Justin Simmons for pass interference, giving Cleveland a new set of downs. Mayfield threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Landry on the next snap to pull the Browns within 24-19.
After forcing a punt, the Browns got the ball back at their 12 and quickly reached the Denver 28, where they used their final timeout on fourth-and-4 with 3:23 left in the game.
Mayfield fired a pass to Landry that Kareem Jackson and Davontae Harris both broke up, giving Denver the ball back.
Browns tight end Ricky Seals-Jones left in the second quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.
Browns: Host Buffalo on Sunday.
Broncos: Have a bye before visiting Minnesota on Nov. 17.
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