As if it couldn’t get any more surreal for Denver Broncos fans, well, it has.
Peyton Manning set an NFL record by throwing his 10th, 11th, and 12th touchdown passes of the season, marking the most over the first three games by a quarterback in league history.
The Broncos had a 27-7 halftime lead over the Raiders, and hit something of a wall in the second half (which is not normal for this season) as they coasted to a 37-21 victory on Monday Night Football.
Manning and company had 31 first downs on the night, only two of which came by way of penalty, racking up 536 yards of total offense on just 11 drives. The Broncos ran 73 plays compared to just 51 for the Oakland Raiders, and the Denver defense was stout in the early goings of the game.
The Raiders came into the game ranking first in the NFL in rushing, and they mustered up just two first downs by way of the ground game, and had only 49 rushing yards on the night.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways for me from the Broncos’ third convincing victory of the 2013 season.
1. The Passing Game is Unstoppable
The Ravens couldn’t stop it (SEVEN TDs), the Giants couldn’t stop it, and the Raiders couldn’t stop it. I don’t think the Eagles will be able to stop it and I don’t foresee the Broncos having much trouble at all finding ways to move the ball through the air this season.
Peyton Manning is simply too good at this point, and not only is he playing at an elite level, he is playing at an unheard of level. He has set the NFL mark with 12 touchdowns through the first three games of the season, and hasn’t thrown a single interception. In fact, prior to his odd fumble on Monday night against the Raiders, Manning hasn’t really made any errors at all aside from maybe the occasional underthrow.
Those are few and far in between.
For the night, Manning was 32-of-37 for 374 yards and three touchdowns. Eric Decker went of for 8-133-1, Demaryius Thomas had 10-94, Wes Welker had 7-84-1, and Julius Thomas had 4-37-1. Honestly it doesn’t seem like anything is going to slow that unit down. It’s as good as Broncos fans could have possibly pictured it when the team signed Welker back in March.
2. The Running Game Lives
What a night it was for the Broncos’ running backs, which gave the Raiders a taste of their own medicine and ran buck wild Monday night.
The Broncos had one drive in particular led by Ronnie Hillman that was especially impressive, and the running game finished off the night with 164 yards on 35 carries and a one-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Hillman that gave the Broncos a 37-14 lead at the time.
Denver needed a confidence boosting game for the running backs, and they got it. Hillman had just nine carries, but finished with 66 yards. Rookie Montee Ball had a whack fumble late in the game that let the Raiders pad their stats a bit, but he finished with 62 yards on 11 carries. Knowshon Moreno added 39 yards and the Broncos had their running game flow going.
It was a pretty sight to see.
3. Maybe the Stat of the Night
I realize it’s not as impressive as Manning’s 12 touchdowns through three games to start the year, but the Broncos’ offensive line allowed one sack against the team that led the league in that category going into this week.
Chris Clark had really one miscue on the night when he let LaMarr Houston through the line of scrimmage to force a strip sack on Peyton Manning, but other than that, it was a great night for the offensive line, answering the call after losing captain Ryan Clady.
4. Not Worried About Pass D
The Broncos left some receivers open for Terrelle Pryor on Monday Night, but they weren’t about to let the Raiders QB run all over them.
As far as his scrambling is concerned, Pryor was held in check the entire game, including a designed quarterback run in the fourth quarter where he was absolutely blasted and later left with concussion symptoms. He had four carries for 36 yards, which led the Raiders.
The Broncos also allowed a touchdown on a Darren McFadden pass. Yep, the Raiders went there.
5. Robert Ayers Was Very Good
Robert Ayers has earned the nickname “Almost Ayers” by some Broncos fans, but ‘Almost’ made the most of his opportunities Monday night, finishing the game with two sacks, two tackles for loss, and three QB hits.
Tony Carter and Duke Ihenacho left with ankle injuries, and right tackle Orlando Franklin had a shoulder injury. The severity of the injuries is not known at this point, but none is suspected to be serious.