By Rich Kurtzman

Denver is feeling a Mile High right about now.

The Denver Broncos previously clinched their fourth straight AFC West title, but on Sunday night, they also secured a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed in the American Football Conference by blowing out their rival, the Oakland Raiders 47-14. Denver never trailed in the game, although it was close early at 10-7 following Justin Tuck’s tip of Peyton Manning’s lateral which turned into a touchdown for Oakland. The Broncos poured it on after that, especially in the second half, when they outscored Oakland 27-7 to win.

Offense: B-

Peyton Manning was on in this game, after being off for weeks in a row. Even the cold couldn’t get Manning down, as he went 21-37 for 273 yards in the win. Demaryius Thomas was up and down, dropping a would-be touchdown, while Wes Welker enjoyed a 40-yard catch on an important third down in the third quarter. C.J. Anderson was the star of the game, rushing for 87 yards and three touchdowns. While Manning didn’t toss a touchdown for only the second time in his Broncos career, the running game carried Denver to the win.

Defense B+

Well, the running game, and the defense. Which was stellar again this contest. The NFL’s No. 3 defense lived up to its billing, holding the Raiders to a mere eight yards on offense in the first half. Pressure was the name of the game, as Von Miller, Aqib Talib and Lerentee McCray all had a sack on Derek Carr. The defense forced five straight punts by the Raiders in the first half and eight on the night, while picking off Carr once as well. They were all over the quarterback, not affording him time to pass the ball and won that side of the line of scrimmage.

Special Teams: B

The special teams was much more extraordinary than usual. Omar Bolden’s kickoff return to the Raiders’ 30 to start the second half was explosive. The punt team relentlessly put pressure on Marquise King, Oakland’s punter, almost blocking multiple kicks. Connor Barth was a perfect 4-4 on field goals for the night.

Coaching: C

The most notable aspect of the coaching on Sunday was John Fox’s electing to go for it on fourth and 1 from the 4 yard line. Ronnie Hillman ran outside and the referees originally called him out of bounds short of the line to gain. Fox was smart to not only go for it, but to challenge the play, which he won and Denver gained the line for the first down. Unfortunately, Adam Gase’s play calling led to three straight passes, which were all incomplete, from the three yard line and the team had to settle for a field goal. The balance on offense was key once again to the victory.

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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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