DENVER --Fifteen down, one to go.
The Broncos grabbed their 10th straight win Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, defeating the Cleveland Browns 34-12 to move to 12-3.
Just one game remains in the regular season -- a rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs, this time in Denver. The Broncos can end up anywhere from the No. 1 seed in the AFC to the No. 3 seed, depending on next Sunday's outcomes.
"Merry Christmas, and we control our own destiny," Head Coach John Fox told the locker room after the win.
Players talked about remaining focused solely on what they can control. It was that attitude that helped the Broncos earn the dominant win against the Browns Sunday afternoon.
Despite Cleveland's 5-9 record, the Broncos treated the matchup as the most important game of the season -- because it was the next game on the schedule.
"Cleveland – they're a great team," said linebacker Von Miller, who became the Broncos' single-season sack leader with 17.5. "They have all the pieces necessary to be a great football team. The record is not a clear indicator of the type of football they've been playing. They come up on the bad side of some football games. Fortunately, we were able to make some plays and come out on top today."
Denver's focus showed right away Sunday, as the offense received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive 80 yards down the field in eight plays. Quarterback Peyton Manning hit wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a diving, 22-yard touchdown reception to put the Broncos on top 7-0.
"Great pass," said Thomas, who led all receivers with nine catches for 102 yards. "I just tried to beat my man, Peyton put the ball in the right spot like he always does and I made a play on it."
Denver never looked back.
On the ensuing drive, however, the Browns put together a 14-play drive that took 7:35 off the clock and culminated in a 27-yard Phil Dawson field goal. The 7-3 score was as close as Cleveland would get.
Manning and the offense got right back to work on the next drive, moving 80 yards down the field in 15 plays. This time, Manning hit leaping wide receiver Eric Decker for the first of the duo's two touchdown connections to make it 14-3.
"It really is a luxury both (Decker) and Demaryius give you the opportunity to throw the ball high in the back of the end zone," said Manning, who tied Brett Favre with his 72nd career game with at least three touchdown passes. "People call that the Dwight Clark throws -- our ball or nobody's ball. You can throw it high because of their height and their ability to jump. That was really a good play."
Decker's second touchdown catch, a 1-yard Jacob Hester touchdown run and two Matt Prater field goals accounted for the rest of Denver's scoring, as the Broncos closed the game on a 20-6 run.
Cleveland found the end zone just once. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who entered the lineup after Miller's record-setting sack knocked starter Brandon Weeden out of the game, found wide receiver Greg Little for a 6 yard touchdown.
That capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive, but the ensuing two-point conversion failed, and the Browns didn't score again.
Denver held Cleveland to just 233 total yards of offense and 3-of-12 on third down conversions in the game. The Broncos, meanwhile, racked up more than 450 yards and converted 60 percent of their third downs.
"We know what we're capable of," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Nobody's taking their eyes off the prize as far as what we have to do to get to where we want to go. That's all it's about. I've seen situations, I've been in playoffs before, 8-5 and then lose three in a row and still get in. That doesn't work around here. We want to go in strong and make sure that we're on top of our game."