Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/2/12
DENVER -- Peyton Manning threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns, Von Miller returned an interception for his first NFL touchdown, and the Denver Broncos clinched their second consecutive AFC West title with a 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Demaryius Thomas had eight catches for 99 yards and two scores, and Jacob Tamme caught nine passes for 89 yards for the Broncos (9-3), who have won seven straight. Denver is assured of at least one home playoff game, and it stayed in the race for a first-round postseason bye. Tampa Bay (6-6) was eliminated from the NFC South race. The Buccaneers are a game behind Seattle for the final wild card in the NFC. Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who entered Sunday fourth in the NFL in rushing, had 18 carries for 56 yards -- and just 8 yards in the second half. Josh Freeman went 18-for-39 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Manning has 29 touchdown passes, breaking the single-season franchise record of 27, previously held by John Elway (1997) and Jake Plummer (2004). Manning went 27-for-38 with an interception, and he moved past Dan Marino for second for most completions in NFL history with 4,986 after Sunday's performance. Brett Favre tops the list with 6,300. The Buccaneers kept Denver in check for more than a half, holding Manning to 108 yards passing in the first two quarters before he broke out in the third quarter. Two quick passes moved the Broncos from their own 48 to the Tampa Bay 24. After a pass-interference call on cornerback Leonard Johnson -- Tampa Bay's third penalty in the secondary -- Manning found Thomas in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead. After a Tampa Bay punt, Manning capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Thomas. Miller made it 28-10 when he stepped in front of Freeman's pass in the flat on Buccaneers' ensuing drive and returned it 26 yards for the score. It was Miller's first career interception. He also had a sack that forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay's Connor Barth kicked field goals of 50 and 55 yards in the fourth. Denver kicker Matt Prater nailed a 31-yarder midway through the final quarter, but he subsequently missed a 47-yard attempt that left the door open for the Buccaneers. Freeman connected with Mike Williams for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 2:33 remaining. The Buccaneers tried an onside kick that wide receiver Eric Decker recovered for Denver. The Broncos scored first with help from the Tampa Bay defense. The Buccaneers had two penalties in the defensive backfield, one for pass interference on Ronde Barber on a third-and-8 that gave Denver a first down at the Tampa Bay 18. After Knowshon Moreno ran 12 yards to the 1, Manning connected with nose tackle Mitch Unrein, who reported as an eligible receiver, to make it 7-0. Tampa Bay responded with a nine-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a 31-yard Barth field goal. After a three-and-out by Denver, the Buccaneers struck again. Freeman hit Williams on a post pattern for a 40-yard gain to the Broncos' 23. Two runs by Martin gave Tampa Bay a first down at the 11. Freeman then found a sliding Dallas Clark, who made a basket catch in the end zone to give the Buccaneers a 10-7 lead. NOTES: Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard (ankle) left the game in the third quarter and did not return. ... Freeman had an interception wiped away when Miller was called for roughing the passer in the second quarter. ... Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley (hip, wrist) was inactive. ... Denver defensive end Robert Ayers was inactive due to the death of his father. Ayers did not practice all week. ... Unrein left the game briefly after getting poked in the eye but returned before halftime. ... Miller's second-half sack was the only sack of the game.
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