By Nate Winkler (@natewinkler)
CHFF Black Hole Bouncer
The Denver Broncos traveled to Oakland for a clash with the Raiders for Week 14's edition of Thursday Night Football.
Denver (10-3) took the lead on the opening possesion of the game with a 68-yard touchdown drive and led from wire to wire as they doubled up the Raiders (3-10) by a score of 26-13.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Peyton played well, but did not have his "MVP moment" on national TV.
Peyton Manning is the leading candidate for the 2012 MVP award, but is engaged in a tight race with the likes of Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, among others.
He did nothing to hurt his cause Thursday night (26 of 36, 310 yards, 8.6 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 95.8 rating).
But nor did he produce a proverbial "MVP moment" against the overmatched Raiders.
Those chances usually come in late-season battles with playoff implcations against tough opponents.
That chance will arrive next Sunday, at Baltimore: if Manning sparkles on the road in the middle of a tough AFC playoff race, he could wrap up the honor for fifth time in his career with two games to play.
2. Manning and the Denver offense dominated the game but in the red zone were as ugly as Brad Nessler's suit.
The Broncos' offense ran 78 plays for 428 yards, gained 30 first downs and controlled the ball for over 37 minutes Thursday night.
But it also failed to score 30 points for just the second time during their eight-game win streak. For the first three drives of each half the Broncos moved the ball at will, scoring on all six of those possessions.
The cause for concern however is the two touchdowns the Broncos scored in their seven trips to the Red Zone. Oakland was able to intercept Peyton Manning as he underthrew Matt Willis near the goalline and later kept Denver out of the end zone after a pass interference gave them a first and goal from the one yard line.
The Broncos were forced to settle for field goal attempts four times on the night, but Matt Prater made all four after missing at least one in each of the last four games during a 7/12 stretch. The Broncos will not be able to settle for field goals next week when they travel to Baltimore with a first-round playoff bye likely on the line.
3. You need at least three running backs to get through an NFL season.
Knowshon Moreno was the first draft pick taken by Josh McDaniels in 2009 when he was selected 12th overall.
He had fallen so far out of favor with the Broncos' new regime that he had become the scout team back and a healthy scratch on gameday until Willis McGahee went down with a knee injury against San Diego in week 11.
Entering Thursday night's game against the Raiders Moreno had had just two 100 yard rushing performances in 41 career games.
He carried the ball a career high 32 times against Oakland, finishing with 119 yards (3.72 RY/A) and a touchdown while adding 4 receptions for 48 yards.
Moreno has rushed for 273 yards in the last three games, which is the second highest total over a three game span in his career (2010 Week 11-13).
With Willis McGahee out until the playoffs the Broncos will need Moreno to continu
e his consistent play.
4. The Oakland Raiders honored their legends Thursday night by committing penalties like the old days.
Oakland celebrated the franchise legends during the game with Raiders legends li
ke John Madden and Howie Long being honored at halftime.
New general manager Reggie McKenzie and rookie head coach Dennis Allen have preached culture change and discipline since walking through the door in Oakland last offseason. The Raiders were moving in the right direction as they entered Thursday night as 13th most penalized team in the NFL after traditionally being near the top for decades.
10 point underdogs at home don't need to do their opponents any favors, but by committing 11 penalties for 94 yards the Raiders gave the Broncos a crucial edge.
Six of the penalties resulted in first downs for the Denver offense, and giving Peyton Manning second chances rarely ends up working out for opposing defenses. Manning ended up with 310 yards for his NFL-record 70th career 300 yard passing game.
5. Denver's defense is making them one of the most complete Broncos team in franchise history.
Peyton Manning gets all the attention but Denver is one of the most complete teams in football. They entered the Raiders game tied with the Texans atop our Quality Stats Power Rankings, one of the two most complete teams in football, and No. 1 on the Defensive Hog Index.
Von Miller got his NFL leading 16th sack of the season on the Raiders' first possesion of the second half, stripping the ball from Carson Palmer while ball-hawking Mich Unrein fell on it to give the Broncos a first and goal. Miller has registered a sack in six consecutive games and has forced six fumbles on the year.
Champ Bailey got in on the action with his 52nd career interception (32nd as a Bronco) but Carson Palmer was able to post a 101.1 Passer Rating thanks to a late 56-yard touchdown to Darius Heyward-Bey.
The Broncos allowed a season high 36-yard rush to Darren McFadden at the start of the third quarter but only allowed 25 yards on 15 carries aside from that run.
Denver is one of two teams in football (with Houston) in the top five of the Relativity Index both on offense and defense. Its defense entered the game ranked third in yards allowed and they are the only team in the league that ranks in the top five in both total offense and total defense.
The Broncos have finished in the top five in offensive and defensive yardage just three times in their 52 year history (1989,1996,2004) but have never finished higher than their current rank of third in yardage allowed.