Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 12/2/12
DENVER (31) d TAMPA BAY (23) The Headline: Big win seals Broncos playoff spot The Story: This is exactly what everyone in the NFL was scared about, as the season progressed, Peyton Manning starting to look like Peyton Manning. Picking apart good defenses like Tampa Bay and giving defenses something to fear as he moves his team closer to the playoffs. This win clinched the AFC West for Denver and topped their win total of 2011 under that left handed guy who ran a bit. Denver’s defense keyed off on Doug Martin who either hit the rookie wall or just struggled with altitude (you’ll find out which next week) as he could not get anything going. Josh Freeman’s favourite target Vincent Jackson was held to just three catches as the Buccaneers were forced into a rough day offensively. Filling in for the injured Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno had an ok day, 69 yards on 20 carries doing just enough to keep the Broncos balanced. After three quarters the Broncos lead 28-10 and, despite attempts at a late rally, the Buccaneers ran out of time putting them back to the pack in the wild card chase. Key Stat: Denver: 21-0 in the third quarter Tampa played Denver close for the first half only down 10-7 until you saw one of those stretches Manning has become so famous for. In just over five minutes the Broncos piled on three touchdowns to kill off the resurgent Buccaneers with Manning finding Demaryius Thomas for two scores before a Von Miller pick-six put the Broncos well clear. Key Play: Von Miller interception return for a touchdown When Von Miller crossed the goal line, it felt like the knockout blow for the Buccaneers upset hopes. Josh Freeman endured a rough day and you did not think he had it in him to bring the team back from 18 points down with the momentum firmly on the Broncos side. While Denver was forced to survive a spirited fight back towards the end, a win was never on the cards for the Buccaneers. Man of the Match: Demaryius Thomas 8 catches, 99 yards, 2 touchdowns At the start of the season, the biggest question surrounding Thomas was, “what can he do with a real quarterback?” He has bonded well with Peyton Manning becoming his favourite target and representing a major threat for defenses to worry about now. He will be pushing 100 catches and 1500 yards on the season at this pace which would truly represent a great season.
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