What it means: First and foremost, this puts the Bengals in the playoffs. This is the first time in franchise history they've been to the postseason four straight seasons. At worst, they would be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed and play on the road in the wild-card round. At best, they could be the AFC's No. 2 seed and get a first-round bye. They'll need a win next week at Pittsburgh and a Broncos loss or tie in order for that to happen. With this nationally televised win, the Bengals began changing the narrative that they don't show up in prime time. They are now 3-6 at night since Andy Dalton became their starting quarterback in 2011. After posting a 2.0 passer rating in their Thursday night loss to Cleveland last month, Dalton had an 89.6 Monday.
Stock watch: It's safe to say cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick's stock is rising. After occupying a spot on the Bengals' bench for most of the season, he emerged at the right moment against the Broncos. With 12-year veteran Terence Newman struggling in the third quarter, Bengals coaches turned to their third-year backup to keep receiver Demaryius Thomas, among others, in check. Kirkpatrick did even better than that, coming away with two pivotal interceptions in the final three minutes. His 30-yard interception return for touchdown with 2:41 remaining extended Cincinnati's lead, and his interception with a minute left sealed the win.
Game ball: For the first time since 1997, a Bengals rookie went over the 1,000-yard rushing plateau when Jeremy Hill finished Monday's game with 1,024 for the season. There have been only 21 1,000-yard seasons in Bengals history, with 10 players hitting the mark. Hill surpassed the milestone with a 10-yard, third-quarter carry. One play later, he fumbled inside Denver's 10. Hill had 147 yards on 22 carries as he made his second straight start as the Bengals' featured back over Giovani Bernard. This was the fourth game in which Hill collected 100 yards or more.
Injury slows Green: Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green didn't factor into the Bengals' stat line after getting banged up on Cincinnati's second drive of the game. With offensive coordinator Hue Jackson trying to shake things up early, Dalton threw a pass instead of handing off to start the series. His throw, intended for Green, was high, causing Green to jump for it. He got a hand on it, but after the tip, Broncos corner Aqib Talib dove for the ball and intercepted the pass. Untouched, Talib got up and ran the interception back for a 33-yard touchdown. At the same instant the ball deflected into Talib's hands, Green was popped hard in his right arm by the helmet of a Broncos defensive back. Green immediately jogged to the sideline in obvious pain. ESPN cameras caught him wincing multiple times as trainers tried to evaluate him on the sideline. He kept checking in and out of the game. Targeted three times, Green had zero catches for only the second time in his career. His only other no-catch game was the Week 2 contest versus Atlanta in which he played only six plays.
What's next? The AFC North title is on the line for the Bengals next week when they travel to Pittsburgh for the regular-season finale Sunday. The game was flexed from its originally scheduled 1 p.m. ET kickoff to 8:30 p.m. It's a bit of a grudge match for the Bengals, who lost 42-21 on Dec. 7 in their last meeting with the Steelers. With a win, Cincinnati can claim its second straight division championship.