Broncos clinch playoff bye
December 28, 2014
DENVER — Peyton Manning didn't need to throw any touchdown passes Sunday — C.J. Anderson, Connor Barth and Denver's defense took care of all the scoring.
Anderson ran for three touchdowns, and the Broncos (12-4) earned the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a 47-14 rout of the Oakland Raiders.
Barth kicked four field goals, and cornerback Tony Carter led a dominant Denver defense with a score off a fumble by Derek Carr.
Despite failing to throw a TD pass for the second time in four weeks, Manning guided the Broncos to a tie for the best record in the NFL for the third consecutive season since his arrival in Denver.
Denver won't have the top seed this time, however. That went to the New England Patriots, who rested many of their starters in a loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
Manning was 21 of 37 for 273 yards.
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But the Broncos' red zone follies continued as they were forced to settle for field goals after stalling inside the Raiders' 20-yard line three times.
Manning's backup, Brock Osweiler, threw the first touchdown pass of his three-year career, a 1-yarder to Virgil Green — also the first for the fourth-year tight end.
The Raiders (3-13) lost for the 11th consecutive time on the road. This could have been the finale for interim coach Tony Sparano, who took over after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the season and went 3-9.
Anderson ran for 87 yards on 13 carries, and Ronnie Hillman returned to the Broncos' backfield for the first time since spraining his left foot Nov. 9 and added 56 yards on 15 rushes.
Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 115 yards.
His 1,619 yards are a franchise record, topping Rod Smith's 1,602 in 2000. But he dropped a 17-yard touchdown pass in the second half, then grabbed his right hand as though it had been jammed.
Oakland managed just one first down in the first half — compared to Denver's 14 — and trailed 20-7 at the break.
Omar Bolden returned the second-half kickoff 76 yards to the Oakland 30, and Anderson scored from 25 yards out when he broke three arm tackles.
The Broncos were glad to get the bye because it gives top tackler Brandon Marshall another week to heal from a sprained foot that has sidelined him for two weeks and Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward more time to recover from a strained neck.
David Bruton Jr., who started in place of Ward, sustained a concussion while covering a fourth-quarter punt.
Four plays later, Lerentee McCray sacked Carr, who fumbled. Carter grabbed the loose ball and ran 20 yards for the score.