DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 30: Place kicker Matt Prater #5 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass in front of linebacker Miles Burris #56 of the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on September 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Though there had been some talk early this season that Peyton Manning wasn’t what he once was, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen wasn’t buying it.
Before taking his Oakland team to face Manning and the Broncos in Denver Sunday, Allen told reporters that, “I’m not falling into that trap.”
“He’s Peyton Manning. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Allen said earlier this week. “There is no way that we’re going to say in any way that he’s not the quarterback he’s been.
“I’ve watched the tape. He’s still an outstanding quarterback.”
He certainly is. And, after the Broncos crushed the Raiders Sunday 37-6, Manning has yet another reel of highlight tapes to show the rest of the NFL.
On Sunday, Manning was brilliant, shredding a vulnerable Raiders defense that already has lost its two starting cornerbacks this season. Manning led the Broncos on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on their first possession – topping it off with a 22-yard scoring toss to Joel Dreessen – to take a lead they would never relinquish, and handed Oakland a third loss in four games this season.
The former Colts standout, in his first season for the Broncos, completed 30-of-38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
Though the Raiders were able to keep the score close, trailing just 10-6 at halftime, Manning came out firing in the third quarter, leading the Broncos on three touchdown drives. He connected with Eric Decker for 17 yards to put Denver up 17-6, then – after Willis McGahee tacked on a 2-yard TD run to make it 24-6 – hit Lance Ball for 14 yards to close out a third quarter in which Denver outscored the Raiders 21-0. Denver added two more field goals in the fourth quarter for the final margin of victory.
The Raiders secondary – which lost starting corners Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer the first two games of the season – was no match for Manning and his cast of fleet receivers.
With former safety Michael Huff at one corner and former Green Bay castoff Pat Lee at the other, several Broncos receivers had huge days. Demaryius Thomas had five catches for 103 yards; Decker had seven for 79; and tight ends Dreessen and Jacob Tamme combined for seven catches, 55 yards and a TD.
It was the first time Denver had beaten the Raiders in Colorado since 2007, and it was a thorough beating.
Not only was the Broncos passing game brilliant, but the Denver running attack added 165 yards, with McGahee rushing for 112 yards on 19 carries (a 5.9-yard average). Overall, the Broncos averaged 6.5 yards per offensive play and picked up first downs on 11-of-18 third- or fourth-down plays.
Meanwhile, the Raiders defense didn’t get to Manning once. The former Super Bowl winner with Indianapolis looked exactly like the quarterback who was the bedrock of the Indianapolis franchise before having to sit out last season with a neck injury.
On offense, Oakland could get nothing going.
Darren McFadden – who broke out for the first time in last week’s victory over the Steelers – again was bottled up, gaining just 34 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback Carson Palmer showed flashes, and connected with Denarius Moore four times for 71 yards – but couldn’t sustain any drives and was sacked three times. Oakland converted just 1-of-12 third-down opportunities.
Now, the Raiders at least get a break. Next week is their bye week, but following that on Oct. 14, they’ll have to fly across country to play the Falcons in Atlanta. The 4-0 Falcons, led by quarterback Matt Ryan, are off to their best start since 2004 when they reached the NFC Championship Game.
Again, it will be another test for a Raiders pass defense that so far has been defenseless.