Manning threw for 310 yards and had his 30th touchdown pass of the season on the game’s opening drive to help the Broncos roll to their eighth straight victory, 26-13 over the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
Knowshon Moreno ran for 119 yards and a score on a career-high 32 carries, and Matt Prater kicked four field goals to help the Broncos (10-3) move a half-game ahead of New England and Baltimore for the second-best record in the AFC. Denver visits Baltimore next week in a game that will help decide who gets a first-round playoff bye.
Carson Palmer threw one interception that thwarted a possible scoring chance for the Raiders (3-10) and lost a fumble that set up a touchdown for the Broncos as Oakland lost its sixth straight game. This is the team’s longest skid since also losing six in a row in 2007.
The Raiders played the game with heavy hearts as coach Dennis Allen’s father, Grady, died earlier in the week from cardiac arrest. Allen was away from the team for two days but returned Wednesday and coached the game.
The Raiders players talked during the week about rallying around their first-year coach but came out flat against a fierce division rival and were swept in the season-series by the Broncos for the first time since 2006.
The game was mildly competitive for only a brief time as the Raiders got on the board late in the first half on a touchdown pass from Palmer to Darren McFadden and then started with the ball in the third quarter down 13-7.
McFadden, returning from a four-game absence for a sprained right ankle, broke off a 36-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, but the Raiders drive stalled in Denver territory after that and the Broncos took the game over.
Manning, who joined Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 5,000 career completions, converted a third-and-11 with a perfectly placed 22-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas. Manning followed that with a 29-yard completion to Eric Decker, but the drive stalled after a pass-interference call on Matt Giordano gave the Broncos a first down at the 1. Prater’s 20-yard field goal made it 16-7.
Mike Goodson then made the ill-advised decision to return a kick from 8 yards deep in the end zone, forcing Oakland to start a drive at the 8. Von Miller then beat Khalif Barnes for a sack on third down, stripping the ball from Palmer. Mitch Unrein recovered at the 2 and Moreno scored two plays later to make it 23-7.
Prater added another field goal later in the third quarter and Manning went on to his record 12th season with 10 wins as a starting quarterback.
The only remaining drama was whether quarterback project Terrelle Pryor would get his first action of the season for Oakland. He didn’t, giving the frustrated Raiders fans yet another reason to be upset even though Palmer added a 56-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey and finished with 273 yards passing.
The Raiders won the coin toss but decided to defer until the second half. The decision backfired as Manning converted three third downs on a 68-yard drive that was capped by a 6-yard pass to Joel Dreessen that was Manning’s 30th touchdown pass of the season.
Prater added two field goals after Broncos’ drives stalled inside the Oakland 20 as Denver extended the lead to 13-0. The momentum shifted after Phillip Adams’ intercepted an underthrown pass from Manning to Matthew Willis in the end zone.