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How It Happened: Broncos 37, Raiders 21

Posted Sep 23, 2013

A balanced offense and a defense that shut down the league's No. 1 rushing attack pushed Denver to 3-0 in 2013.

DENVER -- Monday night, quarterback Peyton Manning set an NFL record, the offense continued its record-setting pace and the Broncos moved to 3-0.

Meanwhile, the defense held the league's top rushing attack to just 49 yards on the ground, only nine of which came from Darren McFadden on 12 carries, in a 37-21 Broncos victory against the AFC West-rival Oakland Raiders.

"It was our first division win," Head Coach John Fox said. "We do start the season 3-0 -- there's not a bunch of those out there. So we'll let them enjoy this one and we'll get on Philadelphia first thing in the morning."

The Broncos have now won 14 consecutive regular-season games, which ties a franchise record and marks the league's longest active streak.

Monday's win featured the strongest start for the Broncos all season.

After the defense forced a Raiders three-and-out, the offense drove all the way to the 2-yard line to set up second-and-goal.

A fake handoff to running back Knowshon Moreno drew the Raiders toward the line of scrimmage and left wide receiver Eric Decker wide open in the end zone for the Broncos' first first-quarter points of the season.

"When you've got two touchdowns (last week) like that and a guy like Knowshon that's a threat, you're going to bite," running back Ronnie Hillman said of Oakland falling for the play-action. "You're gonna bite and you're gonna get bit."

It was the start of a big night for Decker, who finished with eight catches -- one short of a career high -- and 133 yards -- three short of a career high -- along with his touchdown.

His was the first of seven scores for the Broncos, who led by as many as 23 points late into the fourth quarter.

Next up was a 53-yard Matt Prater field goal. On the Raiders' ensuing drive, Oakland picked up its first first down of the game -- with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter. The drive, however, ended in a punt, and the Broncos offense got back to work.

What followed was a methodical drive that featured five first downs ended with a 12-yard touchdown to Wes Welker that gave Denver a 17-0 lead.

"Everybody is going to be an option on every single play and it’s never going to be one guy," Welker said of Manning spreading the ball around. "It’s everybody collectively as a team making it happen, and that’s what football’s about. That’s when you can really start doing things.”

Three plays later, however, a 73-yard pass from Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor to wide receiver Denarius Moore pulled Oakland back to within 10.

But the Broncos responded in turn thanks to a 61-yard catch-and-run by Decker that put Denver in the Oakland red zone after just one play.

"That was like an 18-yard comeback, but to break that tackle and take it for 50-60 yards – those are the types of plays that really help the drives get going," Manning said.

Three plays later, Manning found tight end Julius Thomas for his third touchdown of the evening -- which gave him an NFL-record 12 through the first three games of the season.

"It's deflating," Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen said of Denver's quick response to his team's comeback effort.

Two more Prater field goals extended Denver's lead to 30-7 midway through the third quarter, but Oakland wasn't quite finished.

A trick play -- a 16-yard touchdown pass from McFadden to fullback Marcel Reece -- put the Raiders back on the board late in the third quarter. But once again, the Broncos responded on the very next drive.

Manning threw just three passes on the drive -- one of which went for 32 yards to Welker -- and the running backs did the rest of the work.

On first-and-goal from the 20, Hillman took a draw up the middle for 19 yards, diving toward the goal line -- but he was ruled down at the 1-yard line.

"I thought I got in, but they said I had something hit before I got over," said Hillman, who finished the game with 66 rushing yards. "It's alright. I still got in."

He did on the very next play, with defensive tackle Mitch Unrein helping to clear the way as a fullback.

"I was looking at it — the dude didn't even want any part of Mitch," Hillman laughed. "He kind of dove at his leg. I was like, 'OK.' So you just take it in."

A fumble by rookie Montee Ball, who finished with 61 rushing yards, gave the Raiders another chance at a score, and McFadden capitalized with a 1-yard touchdown run for what would prove to be the final score of the game.

That was one of a number of mistakes Fox and Manning pointed to as areas to correct in their postgame press conferences, but all-around, Manning was pleased with how well the running game complemented the passing attack.

"I think we averaged four yards-per-carry in the run game, 4.5 yards or so, and when you can do that, that can certainly help your passing game and help put their defense in a little bit of a bind," he said. "You know, ‘Do we drop back and play zone?’ That’s opening up running lanes. ‘Do we crowd the box?’ Now you’ve got one-on-one. If you put the defense in that position, that’s a good thing.”

Meanwhile, Manning finished the game 32-of-37 for 374 yards with the three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 135.8. The win marked his 15th consecutive regular-season game with a passer rating above 90.0, which broke his own NFL record that he set back in 2004. His 86.5 completion percentage set a new career high and a Broncos franchise record with a minimum of 20 attempts. And he still hasn't thrown an interception in the 2013 season.

“He’s playing OK," Decker laughed when asked about Manning's performance. "All I can say is that it is really amazing to play with a guy of his ability and his leadership. We win games during the week at practice. He makes sure we’re on top of things so when Sunday comes, it is easier. I appreciate the work that he does for us.”

In six days, the Broncos are back home at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. And they don't plan to rest on their laurels.

“At the end of the day we got the win," linebacker Shaun Phillips said. "But again, there’s room for improvement for us because we want to be great. But in order to be great, you have to be good all the time and that’s what we’re working for – trying to be good every single day so we can be great in the end.”

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