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Manning, Broncos pick apart Raiders

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Denver Broncos' strong start notwithstanding, Peyton Manning believes there is still room for improvement.

Manning threw for three touchdowns in another dominating display, and the Broncos beat the Oakland Raiders 37-21 Monday night to tie a team record with their 14th consecutive regular-season victory.

"We can still correct some things," Manning said. "You're not looking to play the perfect game. You're looking to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. We left a couple of touchdowns out there, and those are things we can fix."

Manning had the offense working well enough to fire scoring passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker, 12 yards to Wes Welker and 13 yards to tight end Julius Thomas in pushing his season total to 12, the most touchdown passes in the first three games of a year in NFL history. The previous high was 11 by the New England Patriots' Tom Brady in 2011.

"He was going along pretty well once he got started here a year ago, and I think he has started (this season) where he left off last year," Broncos coach John Fox said. "We've added some weapons, personnel-wise, that have helped us. And he's an incredible player as far as the way he prepares and communicates things to his teammates."

Ronnie Hillman added a 1-yard touchdown run for Denver (3-0), which won its last 11 regular-season games last year before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional playoff game.

"We actually started better today and finished slower," Julius Thomas said. "Every time we got the ball, we were looking to put up points, and we were able to do that early. We struggled a little bit in the second half, but we'll clean it up and keep on trying to be productive on offense."

Matt Flynn ran Oakland's final offensive series at quarterback after Terrelle Pryor suffered a concussion on a hard hit near the end of the previous series. Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter also was lost to a concussion in the first half. Both will have to undergo testing before being cleared to play, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.

Allen said it was too early to say whether Pryor would be available for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Regarding his team's performance, Allen said he felt the Raiders (1-2) were hurt by a sluggish start.

"In the first half, we started off slow, and I thought that was a big deal in the football game," he said. "When you fall far behind a team like that, it's tough to come back."

Manning finished 32 of 37 for 374 yards in leading an attack that the Raiders simply couldn't keep up with offensively and couldn't control defensively. His principal target was Decker, who made eight receptions for 133 yards.

The only blemish was a lost fumble by Manning when he was sacked by LaMarr Houston in the third quarter. The Raiders defensive end beat left tackle Chris Clark, making his first start in place of Ryan Clady, who went on season-ending injured reserve last week due to a Lisfranc injury in his left foot.

Jason Hunter recovered the loose ball for the Raiders' first takeaway of the season. Pryor led a drive that ended in running back Darren McFadden's 16-yard touchdown pass to fullback Marcel Reece, pulling the Raiders within 30-14 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.

Still, cornerback Charles Woodson said Manning had too much time to pick apart the Oakland defense.

"You've got to get to No. 18," Woodson said. "If you don't get to 18, you're going to have a long night like we did tonight."

Manning bounced back from his lone turnover by leading his seventh scoring drive of the night, ending in Hillman's scoring run.

With the game out of reach, the Raiders added a 1-yard touchdown run by McFadden with 1:15 remaining.

Pryor finished 19 of 28 for 281 yards, including a 73-yard score to Denarius Moore.

The Raiders came in tied for the NFL lead in sacks but couldn't get to Manning in the first half. He repeatedly beat Oakland's blitz with play-action passes or by dumping the ball off to his "hot" receiver in guiding Denver to a 27-7 halftime lead.

Manning, operating the no-huddle offense, took the Broncos downfield in their first series of the game. His 22-yard completion to Demaryius Thomas gave Denver a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Manning hit a wide-open Decker in the end zone on a play-action pass.

Manning's second touchdown toss went to Welker, who shook Porter with an outside move before coming back across the middle to gather in Manning's pass. The play gave the Broncos a 17-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter.

The Raiders broke up Denver's scoring spree with Pryor's long touchdown pass to Moore. The Oakland receiver made the catch at midfield, broke away from two defenders and broke a tackle at the goal line.

Denver came right back as Decker and Manning teamed up on a 61-yard completion to get within striking distance. A couple of plays later, Woodson lined up directly across from Julius Thomas and then blitzed. The tight end slipped out to the flat unguarded, and Manning quickly lofted the ball over the charging Woodson and into Thomas' arms, giving the Broncos a 24-7 lead with 3:40 left in the second quarter.

In the final minute before halftime, Denver's Matt Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal. He made a 53-yarder in the last minute of the first quarter.

NOTES: The Broncos also put together 14 straight regular-season victories when they won the final game of the 1997 season the first 13 of the 1998 season. ... Moore finished with six catches for 124 yards. The touchdown catch was his career long. ... Denver CB Champ Bailey tested his sprained left foot during a pregame workout, but his comeback was placed on hold for at least another week. Bailey missed his third consecutive game. ... Rookie LB Sio Moore was among the Raiders' inactive players after suffering a concussion in a car accident Saturday. ... Manning threw multiple touchdown passes in a game for the 138th time in his career, second in NFL history to Brett Favre (159). ... The Raiders briefly considered letting PK Sebastian Janikowski try for an NFL-record 68-yard field goal with five seconds left in the second quarter before opting to throw deep. The Broncos sacked Pryor on the play. Janikowski tied the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal two years ago. ... The Broncos lost CB Tony Carter to an ankle injury in the first quarter.

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