Peyton Manning cools critics; Denver Broncos win big


If quarterback Peyton Manning was out to prove a point about his ability to perform in cold weather, he succeeded -- emphatically.

Manning broke the Broncos' single-game franchise record with 39 completions as Denver rolled to a 51-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans with temperatures hovering near 15 degrees on Sunday. His seventh four-touchdown game also broke a record held by former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino (1984) and the 2004 version of Manning.

The Broncos are averaging 39.6 points per game. They need to total just 75 over the final three games to break the 2007 Patriots' record of 589 points.

Here's what else we learned in Sunday's game:

1. Denver's 39 first downs fell one short of the record set by the New Orleans Saints a month ago. In addition to quieting concerns about his arm in cold weather, Manning also deep-sixed any talk of competition for his fifth MVP award. The Broncos became the first team in NFL history to have four players with 10-plus touchdowns. If wide receiver Eric Decker scores twice in the final three weeks, they will have five players in double figures.

Manning is now on pace for a ridiculous 55 touchdown tosses and 5,562 yards through the air. He's thrown some of his prettiest passes of the season in the past two games.

2. The Broncos ran 91 plays, compared with 48 for the Titans' offense. That partially explains the low output for Tennessee receiver Kendall Wright, who was targeted on just three of Ryan Fitzpatrick's 24 pass attempts.

3. Rookie running back Montee Ball has turned the Broncos' backfield into a committee attack, outrushing Knowshon Moreno 194 to 96 over the past two weeks. The AFC's richest roster is getting richer for the stretch run while their competition is hemorrhaging key players.

Thursday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
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4. The box score doesn't do justice to Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who has been unblockable the past two weeks. To go with a sack and a forced fumble, he also drew a holding penalty and blew up a couple of plays.

5. Titans rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter has shown flashes of special ability, clearing 100 yards for the second time in three weeks. His eight targets led the team, suggesting his role will continue to grow over the final three games.

6. With a Thursday night game on the horizon, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker is a longshot to play in Week 15 after suffering his second concussion of the season. Look for more two-tight end sets featuring Julius Thomas and Jacob Tamme.

7. Broncos kicker Matt Prater strengthened his case for a Pro Bowl nod by setting the NFL record with a 64-yard field goal.

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