Manning & Miller lead Broncos to 10th straight win
- Article by: ARNIE STAPLETON
- Associated Press
- December 24, 2012 - 5:15 AM
DENVER - Von Miller's day was memorable because Peyton Manning was so masterful.
Manning threw for a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns, two of them frozen ropes into impossibly tight windows, and Denver's defense had a half-dozen sacks, all in the second half of the Broncos' 34-12 rout of the injury-riddled Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
With their 10th straight win, the Broncos (12-3) moved into a first-place tie in the AFC standings with the Houston Texans.
"There really was a mindset today to get touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals," said Manning, whose 72nd game with at least three TD throws tied Brett Favre's record. "I really think that was a factor in Cleveland's play calling. Now they have to throw more and allow Von and Elvis to kind of pin their ears back."
Miller was in on two of the sacks, the second of which gave him the single season franchise record 17 1/2.
"Individual accomplishments are great, but I think it says a lot about the defense that we play here," said Miller, whose record-breaker also knocked quarterback Brandon Weeden out of the game with an injury to his right shoulder and brought in Colt McCoy, who was sacked four times.
The Browns also lost rookie running back Trent Richardson to a left ankle injury in the final minute of the blowout while he was in the game pass blocking instead of taking handoffs to run out the clock.
Browns cornerback Shelton Brown left the game with a concussion after allowing TD throws to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker despite being draped all over the Broncos' pair of big wide receivers.
"He has amazing coverage," Browns defensive back Joe Haden said. "They just put it in the one spot he couldn't get. I mean, it looked like he touched the ball on both of them."
The Browns won the coin toss but deferred and Manning made them pay with a 22-yard TD toss to Thomas, then a 10-yarder to Decker that made it 14-3 after two possessions. Both were thrown in leaping range of the receiver where only he could catch it.
"People call that the Dwight Clark throw," Manning said of the iconic Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark touchdown that won the 1981 NFC title game for San Francisco. "It's our ball or nobody's ball, but because of their height and their ability to jump you can make that throw."
Brown, who later got hurt when he ran into Brandon Stokley on a crossing route, had blanket-tight coverage on both balls.
"I feel like that demoralizes a defense," said Thomas.
Cleveland (5-10) lost its second straight after winning three in a row, and afterward, Joshua Cribbs, whose 62-yard punt return was negated by a penalty, tweeted his dissatisfaction with fans critical of yet another season with double digit losses.
Cribbs tweeted, "I See all the negativity on twitter after I gave my life to this .... . So 2 all u who are against me ... . all y'all! I'm still gonna do me!" Cribbs, set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, later deleted the post.
The Broncos had their own issues, including a season-high 11 penalties, an interception that Manning threw in the end zone and two bobbled returns.
Imperfections like that have helped the Broncos stay remarkably focused on next week — in this case, a regular-season finale against Kansas City (2-13) — instead of a playoff road that seemingly looks easier after every win. This week, it was Houston falling at home, 23-6 to Minnesota, dropping the Texans into a tie for the first spot in the AFC. Houston holds the tiebreaker against Denver, but has a much tougher game — at Indianapolis (10-5).
"I mean, we're fans of football, so obviously we see it," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But it doesn't distract us or get us off of what our mission is and that's just to get better every week and win games."
Miller's 1 1/2 sacks gave him 17 1/2 for the season, topping Elvis Dumervil's franchise record by 1/2.
"He's like my younger brother. If there's any guy who deserves it, it's him," Dumervil said. "He's been working hard since he came into the league. He makes my job easier. So between him and Peyton and Champ, those are my favorite guys as far as Champ covering, Peyton sitting on the sideline for more rest and obviously Von getting pressure on the other side."
Denver put this game away during an eight-minute stretch in the third quarter after Cleveland cut its deficit to 14-6.
Manning led a 91-yard touchdown drive, highlighted when he threw a dart that slammed off Decker's hands and dropped into Stokley's. Two plays later, Manning hit Decker for an 8-yard touchdown, and three plays after that, Miller knocked Weeden out of the game.
"Von is a special talent," Bailey said. "You always have to know where he is. And when you find out where he is, here comes the other guy."
Manning, who completed 30 of 43 passes, played with an orange glove on his throwing hand, something he might have to use in more frosty weather if the road to the Super Bowl ends up going through the Rocky Mountains next month.
"I've messed with it throughout my career," Manning said. "I've been practicing in it these past few weeks. Felt like I was pretty accurate most of the day."
NOTES: Although Manning was 5-0 against Cleveland before Sunday, he had thrown just two TD passes and six interceptions with a passer rating of 74.2. This time, he had a QB rating of 106.6. ... Broncos CB Tracy Porter left with a concussion after playing just three snaps in his first game since Oct. 7. ... Broncos S Mike Adams had four solo tackles and a game-high four pass breakups against his former team. ... Richardson has 950 yards rushing, surpassing Jim Brown for the franchise rookie record. ... Denver KR Trindon Holliday sprained an ankle.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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