Broncos 34, Saints 14

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 29, 2012
The dinged-up thumb. The New Orleans defense. Neither came close to slowing down Peyton Manning on Sunday night. Despite banging his throwing thumb on an opponent's helmet in the second quarter, Manning passed for 305 yards and three scores, led a pair of 90-plus-yard touchdown drives and easily outplayed Drew Brees to lead the Denver Broncos to a 34-14 victory over the Saints. Manning surpassed the 300-yard mark for the fifth straight time to match his personal best and set a franchise record for Denver (4-3). He completed 22 of 30 throws for a passer rating of 138.9. Willis McGahee ran for 122 yards and a score for the Broncos, who won two in a row for the first time this season and took sole possession of first place in the AFC West. ''It's fine,'' Manning said about his thumb. ''As a quarterback, your biggest fear is hitting your hand on the helmet of a defensive lineman. It's mostly the nail. Might be sore tomorrow.'' The Broncos gained 530 yards - a season high - against the NFL's worst defense. The Saints are the first team to allow 400 yards in seven straight games since 1950, which is as far back as STATS LLC can search its NFL database. Coming in on a two-game winning streak of its own, New Orleans (2-5) was hoping to get a boost from the return of linebackers-turned-interim head coach Joe Vitt from his six-game suspension for the team's bounty scandal. All he can do is stand on the sidelines, though, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma - another Saint implicated in the scandal - returned to the starting lineup, but he couldn't plug the holes, either. ''I've got to do a better job of preparing our football team,'' Vitt said. ''I've got to do a better job of getting the team ready physically, mentally and emotionally to play in a game like this. And quite frankly, there's things I need to do better.'' The Broncos held Brees and the league's top passing offense to 213 yards and two scores, the second marking the first points Denver has allowed in the fourth quarter since opening week. Brees extended his record to 50 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. He also reached 301 career touchdown passes to climb past John Elway for sixth on the career list. Small consolation on a night in which the Broncos' defense looked almost as good as the offense. ''That was a very poor performance on our part,'' Brees said. ''We were not able to sustain drives and we left our defense out there entirely too long. That was just very stale.'' The Saints converted only 1 of 12 third downs. ''This football team has been through a lot,'' Vitt said. ''But it's not an excuse for the way we played tonight. It's not an excuse for dropped balls, missed tackles.'' Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard did extensive damage, finishing with 13 tackles, two pass breakups, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception, when Vitt chose to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Denver 47 early in the second quarter with the game tied at 7. ''They told me before the game they would keep me free to make plays,'' Woodyard said. Manning capitalized on Woodyard's pick by leading Denver on a 56-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown, capped on a 13-yard pass to Eric Decker, who was all alone when Jabari Greer slipped. Decker celebrated by spiking the ball a good 10 rows into the stands. A bit later, Manning followed through into a New Orleans player's helmet while completing a 23-yard pass to Decker, leaving a trace of blood across the quarterback's thumb. Manning handed off the next four plays and the Broncos settled for a field goal before halftime. But when Manning returned for the third quarter, he warmed up with no trouble and showed no signs of injury. He then answered any questions by going 4 for 4 to start the third quarter, moving the Broncos 93 yards and capping it with a 1-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas for a 24-7 lead. ''I was really nervous at first but then I realized what a tough guy he is,'' Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley said about Manning's injury. Thomas finished with seven catches for 137 yards. Decker also caught a 2-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for a 31-7 lead. He finished with 43 yards receiving. Denver's first scoring drive opened at the 2 and began with four straight runs by McGahee for gains of 4, 12, 7 and 3. That set up play action and Manning hit Thomas for 41 yards. Five plays later, Manning dropped back, peaked through the crowded line and somehow picked out McGahee among all the big men clogging things up. That little flip screen was good for 14 yards and set up McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run to open the scoring. After getting through the toughest part of their schedule and reaching the bye week at 3-3, the Broncos have only one opponent on the rest of the schedule that currently has a winning record (Baltimore). Too early to call them front-runners, though they certainly played like it against one of the league's most beleaguered teams. ''I'm sure the coaches will find some mistakes on the film,'' Manning said. ''But it was what we were looking for.'' Notes: The Broncos lost a fumble in their 12th straight game, the longest streak in the NFL since the Cardinals lost 18 straight in 1996-97. ... Saints S Roman Harper left in the third quarter with a concussion. ... Manning threw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and completed 70 percent of his passes for a record fourth straight game. ... The lead blocker on McGahee's 1-yard touchdown was DT Mitch Unrein. ... The Saints fell to 2-8 lifetime against the Broncos.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Rams owner buys massive 520,000-acre Texas ranch

Cam Newton explains why he did not dive on fumble

George Karl’s agent rips Kings, wants broadcaster reprimanded

WATCH: Popovich has funny reaction to New Hampshire results

Suns vets pull packing peanut prank on rookie Devin Booker

Teammate gives Manning final completion ball from Super Bowl

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Ole Miss Football cited in 13 of 28 department violations by NCAA

Larry Sanders to consider NBA comeback after other interests stabilize

The NCAAB power rankings

SEC begins crying foul over Jim Harbaugh’s spring break plans at Michigan

Marc Gasol reportedly out indefinitely with broken foot

Patriots waive Montee Ball despite never officially re-signing running back

WATCH: Blackhawks coach walks out of press conference

Greg McElroy: Cam Newton 'quit on his team'

Tennis umpires secretly banned over gambling issues

WATCH: Dancing Kentucky fan slides down rail, fails

Clemson LB has great response to NFL draft analyst's criticism

Former Aggies QB Kyle Allen reveals culture problems at Texas A&M

Roy Williams collapses during game vs. BC

Panthers TE Greg Olsen shaves off his playoff beard

Derek Fisher thanks Knicks in statement

Miami Heat to honor Shaq by retiring his number 32

Oakland Raiders release Nate Allen

B.J. Penn announces he will return at UFC 197

Bring back the Dunk Contest

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The NCAAB power rankings

Report: Kings to keep coach George Karl

Was Alain Vigneault right about NHL's lack of punishment towards Wayne Simmonds?

Report: Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

The best and worst commercials from Super Bowl 50

Best and worst from Super Bowl 50

Six best plays from Super Bowl 50

Eli doesn't look thrilled as Peyton wins Super Bowl

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker