Broncos beat Raiders 34-14 for top seed in AFC

After a bumpy ride that featured season-ending injuries to a

couple of star players and an illness that sidelined their coach,

the Denver Broncos are back in the same spot they were a year ago

thanks to Peyton Manning’s record-setting performance.

Manning set the NFL single-season mark for yards passing and

threw four first-half touchdown passes to clinch the top seed in

the AFC playoffs for the Broncos with a 34-14 victory over Oakland

on Sunday that gave them a second straight 13-win season.

”It’s not easy to go back-to-back 13-3s,” said coach John Fox,

who missed four weeks with an illness. ”It’s not easy to go

back-to-back 1 seeds. Obviously everybody in our building, our

city, the region, maybe even the country, was disappointed at how

we finished a year ago. Hopefully that’s been a fire in the belly

of most of everybody in our building since that last January.”

A 38-35 overtime loss to Baltimore in their playoff opener last

season was the fifth home playoff defeat of Manning’s career, more

than any player.

But he heads into this postseason looking even sharper than he

did a year ago after the win over the Raiders (4-12), even if

Denver will be without left tackle Ryan Clady and linebacker Von

Miller.

Manning threw touchdown passes to Eric Decker and Knowshon

Moreno in the first quarter and added two to Demaryius Thomas in

the second. He broke Drew Brees’ record of 5,476 yards set in 2011

with a 5-yard pass to Thomas with 13 seconds left in the half to

make it 31-0.

That ended Manning’s day after completing 25 of 28 passes for

266 yards. He finished the season with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdown

passes.

”This was a good game today,” Manning said. ”We needed this

win. We needed to improve on some things. The coaches challenged us

in a couple of areas and I think we responded to those

challenges.”

Here are five things to take away from the Broncos’ win over the

Raiders:

RESTING UP: The Broncos accomplished everything they needed to

in the first half, getting Manning his record and home-field

advantage for the team. That allowed Fox to give Manning and some

other regulars the second half off.

”Our goal was to play as good an outing as we have to date this

season,” Fox said. ”The way it worked out, the first half was

about as good in all three phases as we’ve been all year. It

allowed us to get some guys out of the game and rest them.”

JOB STATUS: The Raiders head into the offseason with uncertainty

after losing their final six games to finish 4-12 for the second

straight season under coach Dennis Allen. He said he expects to

meet this week with general manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark

Davis to discuss the future and Allen believes he should be part of

it after guiding Oakland through a two-year rebuilding project with

few draft picks and little salary cap room.

”That’s a decision that’s made over my head,” Allen said. ”I

fully expect to be back. I fully believe that I deserve the

opportunity to come back here and get a chance to go through the

reconstruction phase. I want to be part of the rebuilding

phase.”

RECORD SCORING: The Broncos set an NFL record as well by

becoming the first team to score 600 points in a season. Denver

broke the mark of 589 points set by New England in 2007 on

Manning’s 63-yard pass to Thomas. The Broncos finished with 606

points.

”I feel like it’s a record every other week,” Thomas said.

”It’s great to be a part of, to get it. We just have to sit back

and talk about it, but our main goal is to win the Super Bowl. It’s

a good accomplishment for our offense. The main thing now is being

able to win.”

PRYOR’S RETURN: The decision to go back to Terrelle Pryor at

starting quarterback after six games with Matt McGloin failed to

provide the spark Allen had been seeking. Pryor looked rusty in his

return to the lineup, missing receivers and having little room to

run on read-option plays and scrambles. Pryor completed 21 of 38

passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, with most of that coming

after the game was out of reach. Pryor also ran for 49 yards to

give him 576 yards rushing for the season, breaking Rich Gannon’s

franchise mark of 529 for quarterbacks set in 2000.

”I would say I’m inconsistent,” Pryor said. ”Period. I’ve got

to get better.”

SACK FOR SUB: Nate Irving made the most of his opportunity as a

starter in place of Miller, who sustained a season-ending knee

injury last week. Irving got his first career sack against Pryor in

the first half and added another tackle for loss.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org