Prater, Manning Lead Broncos, 51-28 Over Tennessee
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The Broncos kicker lashed a record-setting 64-yard field goal through the icy air Sunday to highlight a 51-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The Broncos (11-2) wrapped up a playoff berth, putting Manning in the postseason for the 13th time.
Manning, whose ability in the cold has been a topic of debate all month in Denver, showed very few signs of distress in clear, 18-degree weather. It hardly was like the snowy, wacky day all across the NFL.
Denver’s quarterback completed a team-record 39 passes and matched the franchise high with 59 attempts. He finished with 397 yards, and led the Broncos past the 50-point mark for the third time this year.
But Manning and Prater were about the only Broncos clicking on all cylinders on the day coach John Fox rejoined the team and coached from the sideline after missing four games because of heart surgery.
The special teams gave up a 95-yard kickoff return – the second return of 90-plus it has allowed in the last two games.
The Titans (5-8) burned the Denver defense frequently, most notably when Ryan Fitzpatrick (13 for 24, 172 yards) picked on rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster on the first drive for a 57-yard completion to Justin Hunter that set up the game’s first touchdown.
There were about a half-dozen dropped passes and the Broncos had a whale of a time punching the ball in from the 1. They snapped the ball 11 times from that distance in order to get two touchdowns and a field goal.
It turned Prater’s record-setting attempt into much more than a theatrical flourish, which is what most field goals are for a team that has now put up 515 points through 13 games.
Denver had cut a 21-10 deficit to 21-17 before halftime and a penalty forced Manning to start from his 15 with 52 seconds left. An 18-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas got the ball near midfield with 7 seconds left. Then Manning completed a quick 7-yard pass to Jacob Tamme, who went out of bounds with 3 seconds to go.
On came Prater. With the mercury at 14 degrees, he lined up on the right hash mark at his 46, just a few steps over from the eye of the Broncos logo at midfield. The kick cleared the crossbar with a bit of room to spare, and holder Britton Colquitt jumped piggyback onto the kicker to celebrate.
Prater broke a record held by four kickers, set first in 1970 by Tom Dempsey and most recently by David Akers, whose kick last season in Green Bay bounced on the crossbar before going over.
Manning led the Broncos on an 80-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter and the Broncos didn’t trail again.
The quarterback’s 4,522 yards and 45 touchdowns this season remain on pace to break the NFL records of 5,476 and 50.
BY EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer
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