Raiders-Broncos: What we learned

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.

What the Raiders said
"I believe it did. I believe it did in a lot of areas. Obviously, it didn't in the win-loss column, but I believe there's a lot of areas where we improved. I'm sure that'll be something that I'll sit down with (general manager) Reggie (McKenzie) and sit down with (owner) Mark Davis, I'm sure, and we'll discuss the areas where we haven't improved." -- Raiders coach Dennis Allen, on if he felt the team had made some progress in its 4-12 campaign.

What the Broncos said
"It's about getting everyone mentally healthy and getting ready for two weeks from now. We know it's a three-game season left. The next three games are single elimination and we've got to play our best. Right now, we're clicking at the right time and that's what we want." -- CB Chris Harris, on what the Broncos need to make a Super Bowl run.

What we learned about the Raiders
1. Dennis Allen said after the game that he hopes, and expects, to be back next season as the Raiders coach and that he noted progress in some areas by the team despite another 4-12 campaign. Raiders owner Mark Davis hasn't tipped his hand on Allen's fate but he had to be disappointed by the team being blown out in the first half, when the Peyton Manning-led Broncos raced to a 31-0 lead en route to a 34-14 win. The problems go beyond Allen though. The Raiders have a shortage of talent throughout their roster and if anything was evident in their season-ending loss, it was that they have to upgrade virtually every area of the team to regain their competitiveness in a very tough AFC West division.
2. The Raiders quarterback of the future may not be on the roster yet. Terrelle Pryor was understandably ragged in his return to the starting lineup after being benched earlier in the season for his ineffective play. He did finish strong, with a couple of touchdown passes after the game was out of reach, but overall, as he said himself afterward, he has to play better and improve his consistency if he is to have any chance to keep the job. Pryor has shown flashes of ability and his elusiveness as a runner would serve him well if he can continue to develop his pocket-passing skills.

What we learned about the Broncos
1. The Broncos have endured their share of adversity on the way to claiming the AFC's top playoff seed for a second straight season. They were without coach John Fox for a good portion of the season while he recovered from heart-valve surgery and they had to overcome injuries to key personnel, including pass-rushing star Von Miller, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury last week. They remember all too well their stunning exit from the playoffs last season when they were upset by Baltimore in the division round. Dealing with all that adversity, though, has perhaps made the Broncos a better, tougher, stronger team. "We feel fortunate to still be playing, to have a chance to play in the postseason," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Hopefully, it's served us well. It's made us better, that we've been able to handle a lot of different things that have been thrown our way and out of our control. Hopefully that can help us down this whole stretch."
2. Linebacker Nate Irving turned in a solid effort in his first start in place of Von Miller, who was lost for the season last week because of a knee injury. Irving had his first sack of the season and played a prominent role in the defensive effort that shut out the Raiders until they scored a couple of touchdowns in the last few minutes, when the game was out of reach.

What to Read Next