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Surging Rams' defense shuts down Broncos

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The St. Louis Rams limited Peyton Manning to his fewest points in a decade, defeating the Denver Broncos, 22-7, on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. Led by a resurgent Robert Quinn and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Aaron Donald, the Rams defense has been one of the NFL's stingiest over the past month. They gave Manning the longest afternoon of his season, sending consistent pressure, getting physical with Denver's wide receivers and making plays with 12 pass deflections and a pair of interceptions. This is not a team any contender wants to see on the schedule down the stretch.

2. The Broncos' offense was handicapped by the early loss of Julius Thomas to an ankle injury (NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports Thomas sprained his ankle and will undergo an MRI on Monday, per a source informed of the injury). Emmanuel Sanders suffered a concussion in the third quarter, stifling Manning's aerial attack. Rookie Cody Latimer was a healthy scratch, exacerbating the problem. It's not a good sign for the state of Wes Welker's career that he was limited to 28 yards on four receptions on a day in which he was needed to pick up the slack.

3. The Broncos couldn't cover Kenny Britt. In his first quarter and a half with Hill at quarterback, Britt generated his most yards (128) since Week 14 of the 2012 season. Hill was a clear upgrade on Austin Davis, moving the chains and limiting errors. If the defense continues to dominate, that's all Hill will need to do.

4. Denver's offense was one-dimensional, as Manning threw on 25 of the first 30 plays. With Ronnie Hillman nursing a foot sprain and Montee Ball aggravating his groin injury twice in Sunday's game, it's a problem that could haunt the Broncos again next week versus the Dolphins.

5. Rookie Tre Mason finally put a stranglehold on the featured-back role in the Rams backfield, becoming the first player to clear 100 yards against the Broncos' defense this season. If this game is any indication, the committee approach is a thing of the past.

6. Denver's loss leaves the AFC West wide open, allowing the Chiefs to share first place and the Chargers to re-enter the race. With the Patriots getting past the Colts on Sunday night, they hold a commanding lead for the conference's top playoff seed.

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