Manning's 3 TDs helps Broncos beat Raiders 37-21
DENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning slapped his
hands together five, six, seven times and barked out the signals. A few
seconds later, Wes Welker was all alone, cradling the quarterback's
latest touchdown pass.
All part of another impeccably crafted
victory for Manning and the Denver Broncos, who rolled over the Oakland
Raiders 37-21 Monday night. Denver's 127 points lead the league and are
31 more than second-place Green Bay.
Manning went 32 for 37 for 374 yards and set a few more records while outwitting the overmatched Raiders (1-2).
"You see flashes of good things,"
Manning said. "When we're executing and not making mistakes, we can go
the distance. We can go 80 yards, take advantage of a short field."
Manning's 12 touchdown passes are one
more than Tom Brady's old record for the first three games, set in 2011.
Manning still has yet to throw an interception, which matches a record
held by Michael Vick, who also threw 12 touchdowns before his first pick
As much as the numbers, it was Manning's deciphering of the Oakland defense that made jaws drop in this one.
His first touchdown, a 2-yard pass to
Eric Decker, came after a subtle play action fake that froze the defense
and left Decker wide open in the back of the end zone.
Manning's targets for the next two
touchdowns -- Welker and Julius Thomas -- didn't have defenders within
three steps of them. Wide open. A sure sign that Manning had diagnosed
the defense he was looking at well before the snap and knew exactly
where he wanted to go with the ball.
"All of them did a good job competing,"
Manning said of his receivers. "We knew we were in a challenge, because
Oakland has good cover corners. Mix up their coverage well. Guys did a
good job getting open versus man, and finding holes in the zones. All of
them did a good job running with the ball after the catch."
OK, so the evening wasn't perfect.
There were the five incompletions, though two of them were flat-out
drops and another two hit receivers in the hands, but would have been
difficult catches. The Broncos settled for three field goals and had to
punt once. Rookie Montee Ball lost another fumble. Denver came a field
goal short of reaching 40 points for the third straight game.
And Manning's prediction that Chris
Clark would be a seamless replacement for injured Ryan Clady as his
blindside protector didn't exactly pan out. Lamarr Houston beat Denver's
new starting left tackle badly in the third quarter for a sack and
strip that halted a drive that had reached the Raiders 13.
But Denver was ahead 30-7 at that point.
"Those are things we have to iron out," Manning said.
And, really, any complaints about
Denver's offense seem like quibbling given what's gone on so far this
season. The record for touchdown passes in a season is 50, set by Brady
in 2007. If he keeps up this pace, Manning will throw 64.
As for Denver's biggest rival, the
Raiders -- since Manning arrived, the Broncos have outscored them 100-40
in three runaway wins.
The Raiders offense made one big play
before the game got out of hand, when Terrelle Pryor (19 for 28 for 281
yards) hit Denarius Moore in the middle of the field and Broncos
defensive backs Duke Ihenacho and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie whiffed on
the tackle. Moore went 73 yards to cut Oakland's deficit to 17-7 in the
All of which simply gave Manning the
ball back more quickly. On the first play of the next drive, he hit
Decker, who spun away from his defender for a 61-yard gain. Three plays
later, the Broncos were up 17 again after Manning found Thomas on an out
route for a 13-yard score.
The Broncos defense, now halfway
through Von Miller's suspension and playing again without injured Champ
Bailey, allowed only 9 yards on the ground to Darren McFadden, who came
into the game leading the league with 223 yards from scrimmage. McFadden
did, however, throw a touchdown -- a 16-yard connection to Marcel Reece
on a halfback option -- and get a late score on the ground.