OAKLAND, Calif. – Everyone on the outside might be focusing on Peyton Manning setting more records and the Denver Broncos getting an eighth straight win to move a step closer to a first-round bye.
Manning is focused on much smaller goals, like showing improvement week to week.
The Broncos managed to do just that in a short week as Knowshon Moreno sparked a struggling running game with 119 yards and a touchdown and Manning threw for 310 yards and another score to help Denver roll past the Oakland Raiders, 26-13 on Thursday night.
“We talk about getting better,” Manning said. “All the other stuff, that’s not what we talk about. If we get better each week, we’ll see what happens from there.”
Manning extended his franchise record with his 30th touchdown pass of the season on the game’s opening drive, became the fastest quarterback to reach 5,000 career completions and earned his record 12th 10-win season as a starter.
That helped the Broncos (10-3) move a half-game ahead of New England and Baltimore for the second-best record in the AFC. Denver visits Baltimore next week in a game that will help decide who gets a first-round playoff bye.
“That would be great but we can’t really concentrate on that,” said cornerback Champ Bailey, who intercepted a pass.
“We need to concentrate on what we need to do to get better. Just keep plugging along and that thing will take care of itself.”
Carson Palmer threw one interception that thwarted a possible scoring chance for the Raiders (3-10) and lost a fumble that set up a touchdown for the Broncos as Oakland lost its sixth straight game. It is the team’s longest skid since also losing six in a row in 2007.
The Raiders played the game with heavy hearts as coach Dennis Allen’s father, Grady, died earlier in the week from cardiac arrest. Allen was away from the team for two days but returned Wednesday and coached the game.
“I took my father off life support (voice cracking), and that’s not easy to do,” Allen said. “So was it hard? Yeah, it was hard. But I know my father would want me to be here with this football team, and I wanted to be here with this football team. So I’m sure you guys can imagine it wasn’t an easy situation.”
The Raiders’ players talked during the week about rallying around their first-year coach but came out flat against a fierce division rival and were swept in the season series by the Broncos for the first time since 2006.
The game was mildly competitive for only a brief time as the Raiders got on the board late in the first half on a touchdown pass from Palmer to Darren McFadden and then started with the ball in the third quarter down 13-7.
McFadden, returning from a four-game absence for a sprained right ankle, broke off a 36-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, but the Raiders drive stalled in Denver territory after that and the Broncos took control of the game.
McFadden later left the game after re-injuring the ankle.
Moreno is filling in for the injured Willis McGahee and is giving the Broncos the running game they will need to be successful in the postseason.
“That’s something we haven’t been good on the past couple of weeks including last week,” Manning said. “To do that tonight I think we can build off of that.”
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