DENVER (AP) – For Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the first-round bye they secured with a 47-14 rout of the Oakland Raiders is all about the R&R.
Not rest and relaxation, but rehab and revitalization.
“I think to win 12 games with the schedule that we had was a good thing,” Manning said after being held without a TD pass for the second time this month. “And this bye, I think we need it. I think we’re a little beat up physically. I know I am.”
Also, left guard Orlando Franklin and safety David Bruton sustained concussions Sunday.
“I feel good about this team,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “I’ll feel better after a week’s rest and getting some guys healthy as well as getting our injury report whittled down a bit.”
Anderson ran for three TDs, Barth kicked four field goals and cornerback Tony Carter led a dominant Denver defense with a score off a fumble by Derek Carr as the Broncos (12-4) earned the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
They next play on Sunday, Jan. 11.
“When you get all three phases of the game playing like we did today, we can be a dangerous team to stop,” said Anderson, who ran for 87 yards on 13 carries.
There were still areas of concern – red zone follies and off-target tosses – but Manning isn’t going to nitpick.
“Certainly we can always get better,” he said. “I think you want to play your best starting going forward. … We’ve done something right to win 12 games. I don’t think you luck into that. Sure, can we improve? Yeah, we can improve. We will use these next two weeks to try to improve.”
The Raiders (3-13) lost for the 11th straight time on the road and wrapped up their 12th straight season without a ticket to the playoffs. This could have been the finale for interim coach Tony Sparano, who took over after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the season and went 3-9.
“We weren’t able to put it together coming down here to Mile High. That’s basically that,” said Charles Woodson, who, like Sparano, wants to return to Oakland in 2015.
Ronnie Hillman returned to the Broncos’ backfield for the first time since spraining his left foot Nov. 9 and added 56 yards on 15 rushes as Denver continued to refine its ground game.
“We’ve still got things to work on, but it’s good to finish the season off like we did tonight,” said Thomas, who caught eight passes for 115 yards, giving 1,619 yards on the season, topping Rod Smith’s 1,602 in 2000 for the most in franchise history.
However, Thomas was targeted 17 times and caught just one pass for 5 yards after halftime. He injured his right hand late in the second quarter (X-rays were negative) and dropped a 17-yard TD pass in the second half that would have given Manning 40 for the season. Andrew Luck threw a pair of TD passes Sunday, beating Manning by one for most in the league.
Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck said all the consternation about Manning’s play of late is laughable.
“If I play as well as he does at 38, I’ll be damn happy with it,” Tuck said. “Everybody talks about how he’s lost a little zip on his pass. But I don’t run a 4.4 no more. That’s what age does. He still finds a way to hit his wide receivers in stride.”
He said Manning, who’s said he’s coming back in 2015, and Woodson, both members of the NFL class of 1998, “are timeless.”
Oakland managed just one first down in the first half – compared to Denver’s 14 – and trailed 20-7 at the break. Omar Bolden returned the second-half kickoff 76 yards to the Oakland 30 and Anderson scored from 25 yards when he broke three arm tackles, including one by Woodson.
The only real highlight for Oakland came in the first quarter when the Raiders pulled to 10-7 when Tuck tipped Manning’s lateral to Sanders and cornerback Keith McGill scooped it up and trotted 18 yards into the end zone.
“Any time the season ends, you reflect on the season,” Woodson said. “You think about things you could’ve done better, things you’ve done well and figure out going forward how to capitalize on the things you did well. The offseason is here. We’ll have a lot of time to think about it now.”
As for the Broncos, they’ll get an extra week to get their minds and bodies right.
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– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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