Broncos win to earn No. 1 seed in AFC

Dennis Georgatos, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Quarterback Peyton Manning made short work of the record book even as he helped put the Denver Broncos in the best possible position heading into the playoffs.
Manning threw for four touchdowns in a sparkling -- and abbreviated -- performance that capped a record-setting season and secured the AFC's No. 1 seed for the Broncos, who beat the Oakland Raiders 34-14 in a regular-season finale on Sunday.
"The first half was about as good in all three phases as we've been all year," Broncos coach John Fox said. "It allowed us to get some guys out of the game and rest them and still take care of business."
Take care of business they did.
Manning, who was relieved by Brock Osweiler in the second half, completed 25-of-28 passes for 266 yards, giving him an NFL single-season record of 5,477 yards passing. That is 1 yard more than the previous high established by New Orleans' Drew Brees in 2011.
Manning had scoring passes of 3 yards to wide receiver Eric Decker and 7 yards to running back Knowshon Moreno. His last two both went to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the first covering 63 yards and the other coming just before halftime, a 5-yarder that gave Manning 55 TD passes on the season, extending his NFL record.
With that, Manning's work day was over, and his attention turned to getting himself and his teammates prepared for the NFL's second season, the playoffs.
"We needed to improve on some things," Manning said. "The coaches challenged us in a couple of areas and I think we responded.
"I know how hard this group has worked. We have put the time in certainly with the football requirements from the Broncos and we have done things outside of the requirements -- guys have done things on our own: weightlifting, throwing sessions, conditioning work, you name it. Guys have paid the price and sacrificed in order to get in this position. It is fun to play with guys like that who have that kind of work ethic and passion."
Matt Prater added field goals of 34 and 54 yards to help Denver finish the regular season as the NFL's highest scoring team, racking up 606 points. The Broncos became the first team in history to surpass the 600-point threshold while eclipsing the 2007 New England squad, which had the previous high with 589 points.
With the AFC's No. 1 seed locked up for the second straight season, the Broncos will have a first-round bye and homefield advantage as long as they remain alive in the playoffs. The Broncos (13-3) were upset by Baltimore in the divisional round last season, and the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
Sunday's victory was the Broncos' sixth straight against the Raiders (4-12), who endured their sixth consecutive loss and 11th non-winning campaign in a row. Rumors have swirled in recent days about the future of Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who said after the game he hopes to be back.
"I fully expect to be back and I am looking forward to the opportunity to come back," Allen said. "I fully believe that I deserve the opportunity to come back."
Whoever returns as coach will have to sort out the Raiders' issues at quarterback.
Terrelle Pryor, benched for ineffectiveness earlier this season, had a rough outing in his return as the Raiders' starting quarterback in the finale. He routinely was off target with his passes, and on other occasions, his receivers let him down with drops.
Pryor said his play was inconsistent.
"I've got to get better," he said.
The Raiders avoided a shutout when Pryor, with his best throw of the day, threaded a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rod Streater with 4:24 left to play. He added a 9-yard scoring pass to Nick Kasa with 46 seconds to go.
Pryor completed 21-of-38 for 207 yards but also fumbled a low shotgun snap that ended Oakland's second possession. It was recovered by Denver rookie defensive lineman Sylvester Williams at the Raiders' 21-yard line. Four plays later, Manning hit Moreno on a middle screen that went for a touchdown.
Manning set the course for the rout when he drove the Broncos 71 yards on their opening possession. He found Decker open in the end zone to complete an opening drive with a touchdown pass for the eighth time this season.
He targeted Thomas in the second quarter. Manning lofted a downfield strike to Thomas, who got past both Raiders safeties to haul in the 63-yard strike from Manning. The two hooked up again with 18 seconds left in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown that gave Manning the single-season passing record with a yard to spare and extended his single-season touchdown mark.
The Raiders did not run a play in Broncos' territory in the first two quarters, and they left the field to a cascade of boos when they got the ball back with seconds remaining in the second quarter and took a knee to run out the first-half clock.
After blocking a punt in the third quarter, the Raiders had a chance to get on the scoreboard, but Sebastian Janikowski missed a field goal try.
The Broncos played the finale without wide receiver Wes Welker, who missed his third game because of a concussion. Denver linebacker Nate Irving registered his first career sack while playing in place of Von Miller, who underwent season-ending knee surgery after suffering an injury during a victory at Houston a week ago.
NOTES: Quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown a touchdown pass in 39 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. ... The Raiders used eight different starting combinations in their offensive line this season, an NFL high. ... The Broncos scored 30 or more points in 13 of 16 games this season. ... On a tough day for the current Raiders, the crowd could take some consolation in halftime ceremonies honoring the Raiders' 1983 Super Bowl team. ... Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski has missed nine field goals this season, tied for most in the NFL. ... WR Demaryius Thomas surpassed 100 yards receiving in a regular season game for the 15th time. ... Broncos safety Mike Adams was replaced by David Bruton after leaving the game with a head injury. ... Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho also was being evaluated for a concussion after suffering head injury. ... Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor had 49 yards rushing, increasing his season total to 576 yards, most by a Raiders quarterback in team history. Rich Gannon had the previous high with 529 in 2000.

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