DENVER — Peyton Manning slapped his hands together five, six, seven times and barked out the signals. A few seconds later, Wes Welker was all alone, cradling the quarterback’s latest touchdown pass.
All part of another impeccably crafted victory for Manning and the Denver Broncos, who rolled over the Oakland Raiders, 37-21, on Monday night. Denver’s 127 points lead the league and are 31 more than second-place Green Bay.
This was Denver’s 14th straight regular-season win, tying the franchise record set in 1998 when the Broncos won their second Super Bowl.
Manning went 32-for-37 for 374 yards and set a few more records while outwitting the overmatched Raiders (1-2).
As much as the numbers in the latest win, it was Manning’s deciphering of the Oakland defense that made jaws drop in this one.
His first touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Eric Decker, came after a subtle play action fake that froze the defense and left Decker uncovered in the back of the end zone.
Manning’s targets for the next two touchdowns — Welker and Julius Thomas — didn’t have defenders within three steps of them when they caught the passes. Wide open. A sure sign that Manning had diagnosed the defense he was looking at well before the snap and knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball.
As for Denver’s biggest rival, the Raiders — since Manning arrived, the Broncos have outscored them 100-40 in three runaway wins.
The Raiders offense made one big play before the game got out of hand, when Terrelle Pryor (19-for-28 for 281 yards), who left the game late with a concussion, hit Denarius Moore in the middle of the field and Broncos defensive backs Duke Ihenacho and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie whiffed on the tackle. Moore went 73 yards to cut Oakland’s deficit to 17-7 in the second quarter.