Peyton Manning passed for 310 yards and a touchdown and Knowshon Moreno ran for 119 yards and a touchdown as the AFC West champion Denver Broncos improved to 10-3 on the season with 26-13 win over the Oakland Raiders at O.co Stadium on Thursday night.
The Broncos got off to a quick start as Manning led the offense on a 10-play, 68-yard drive in 4 minutes, 30 seconds that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Joel Dreessen. The Broncos added to their lead with Matt Prater closing out a pair of 10-play drives with field goals of 43 and 34 yards.
In between Prater field goals, the Raiders had an opportunity to chip into the Broncos' lead after Carson Palmer and undrafted rookie Rod Streater connected on a 58-yard pass that set Oakland up at Denver' 22-yard line. On the following play, Palmer attempted to hit tight end Brandon Myers down the right seam, but future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey jumped the under thrown ball to thwart Oakland's opportunity to put points on the scoreboard.
Up 13-0 and with an opportunity to put the Raiders away, Manning would return the favor when his under thrown pass towards Matt Willis was picked off by journeyman Phillip Adams, who made a sensational diving interception, rolling into the end zone for a touchback with just under nine minutes to play in the half. The Raiders would use the no-huddle offense to march down the field against the Broncos as Palmer completed 9 of 11 attempts for 80 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Darren McFadden, who returned to the lineup after missing the last four games with an ankle injury.
With an assist from the defense, the Broncos would take over in the second half.
After forcing the Raiders to punt on the opening possession of the third quarter, the Broncos would march 89 yards in 10 plays before Prater hit his third field goal of the night, this one from 20 yards out. Aiding the Denver's scoring drive was 34 yards in pass interference penalties on cornerback Ron Bartell and safety Matt Giordano. An ill-advised decision to bring the ball out from 8 yards deep in the end zone by return man Mike Goodson pinned the Raiders at their own 8-yard line to start their next possession.
Facing third-and-6 from his own 12-yard line, Palmer was sacked by Von Miller, the second-year linebacker's 16th of the season, with the ball popping loose. It was recovered by defensive tackle Mitch Unrein at the Raiders' 2-yard line. Two plays later, Moreno would punch the ball into the end zone to extend the Broncos' lead to 23-7. Denver's defense would force another three-and-out, which the Broncos' offense would capitalize on as Manning completed 5 of 6 pass attempts for 42 yards, setting up a 33-yard field goal by Prater with less than 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Palmer would hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 56-yard catch-and-run with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but it would be too little, too late as Moreno would pound out 40, clock-chewing yards on eight carries, forcing the Raiders to burn their timeouts before sealing the game with a 3-yard run on a third-and-1 play before the two-minute warning.
Manning would complete 26 of 36 pass attempts for 310 yards, extending his own mark for 300-plus-yard passing games with No. 70 of his career. Manning reached a milestone in the first half when he completed his 5,000th pass, second only to Brett Favre (6,300) in NFL history. Manning's first-quarter touchdown pass to Dreessen was his 30th of the 2012 season, giving him seven seasons with 30 or more touchdown passes in his illustrious career. Wide receivers Eric Decker (eight, 88 yards) and Demaryius Thomas (five, 83) would combine for 13 receptions and 171 yards. Moreno's 119 yards came on a career-high 32 carries as the former first-round pick has stepped up in the absence of Willis McGahee, who is on the team's "Injured Reserve/Designated to Return" list with an MCL tear.
For the Raiders, Palmer was 19 of 30 for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 101.1, his third-highest mark of the season. In his first game back from an ankle injury, McFadden had 11 carries for 52 yards with two receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown, but aggravated his ankle injury and was unable to finish the game. Conspicuously absent on Thursday night was tight end Brandon Myers, who entered the game as the Raiders' leader with 69 receptions and 721 yards with four touchdowns. Even with the Broncos playing without linebacker Wesley Woodyard, the team's leader with three interceptions, Myers had just one reception for 7 yards on two targets, with the other attempt to get the ball in his hands resulting in the 52nd interception of Bailey's career.
At 10-3, the Broncos can rest up this weekend and watch teams the teams they're contending with for playoff positioning with the AFC. The 9-3 Baltimore Ravens visit the red-hot Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon, while the AFC East champion New England Patriots, who are 9-3 through 12 games, host the 11-1 Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football." The Broncos lost to both the Patriots and Texans earlier this season and will face the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 16.
Oakland has now lost six straight to fall to 3-10 in Dennis Allen's first season as head coach of the Silver & Black. The Raiders will close out their home schedule against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 16 before facing the Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers on the road to close out their season.