Broncos ride Manning's arm, Prater's toe past Titans


By EDDIE PELLS

AP National Writer

DENVER — The freezing cold didn’t bother Peyton Manning and it certainly was no problem for Matt Prater.

The Broncos kicker lashed a record-setting 64-yard field goal through the icy air Sunday to highlight a 51-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The Broncos (11-2) wrapped up a playoff berth, putting Manning in the postseason for the 13th time.

Manning, whose ability in the cold has been a topic of debate all month in Denver, showed very few signs of distress in clear, 18-degree weather. It hardly was like the snowy, wacky day all across the NFL.

Denver’s quarterback completed a team-record 39 passes and matched the franchise high with 59 attempts. He finished with 397 yards, and led the Broncos past the 50-point mark for the third time this year.

But Manning and Prater were about the only Broncos clicking on all cylinders on the day coach John Fox rejoined the team and coached from the sideline after missing four games because of heart surgery.

The special teams gave up a 95-yard kickoff return — the second return of 90-plus it has allowed in the last two games.

The Titans (5-8) burned the Denver defense frequently, most notably when Ryan Fitzpatrick (13 for 24, 172 yards) picked on rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster on the first drive for a 57-yard completion to Justin Hunter that set up the game’s first touchdown.

There were about a half-dozen dropped passes and the Broncos had a whale of a time punching the ball in from the 1. They snapped the ball 11 times from that distance in order to get two touchdowns and a field goal.

It turned Prater’s record-setting attempt into much more than a theatrical flourish, which is what most field goals are for a team that has now put up 515 points through 13 games.

Denver had cut a 21-10 deficit to 21-17 before halftime and a penalty forced Manning to start from his 15 with 52 seconds left. An 18-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas got the ball near midfield with 7 seconds left. Then Manning completed a quick 7-yard pass to Jacob Tamme, who went out of bounds with 3 seconds to go.

On came Prater. With the mercury at 14 degrees, he lined up on the right hash mark at his 46, just a few steps over from the eye of the Broncos logo at midfield. The kick cleared the crossbar with a bit of room to spare, and holder Britton Colquitt jumped piggyback onto the kicker to celebrate.

Prater broke a record held by four kickers, set first in 1970 by Tom Dempsey and most recently by David Akers, whose kick last season in Green Bay bounced on the crossbar before going over.

Manning’s 4,522 yards and 45 touchdowns this season remain on pace to break the NFL records of 5,476 and 50.

PHILADELPHIA — LeSean McCoy ran for a franchise-best 217 yards, including touchdowns of 57 and 40 yards, and the Eagles overcame two TD returns by Jeremy Ross in a blizzard.

Ross returned a punt 58 yards for a score and ran a kickoff 98 yards. But McCoy sprinted 57 yards up the middle for a tying TD, and Nick Foles connected with Riley Cooper on the 2-point conversion. Foles sneaked in from the 1 and Chris Polk had a 38-yard touchdown run to cap a 28-point fourth quarter for the Eagles (8-5).

Snow began falling two hours before kickoff and intensified after the game started. Workers used shovels and handheld blowers to clear off yard lines. Conditions were so poor neither team tried a field goal, and there were 2-point conversion attempts after seven of the eight TDs.

BALTIMORE — Joe Flacco threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to rookie Marlon Brown with 4 seconds left to ice the win. Brown’s catch concluded a five-play, 80-yard drive that took only 41 seconds.

It came after Matt Cassel threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson with 45 seconds remaining. Just before that, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones took a kickoff 77 yards for a score, which followed a 41-yard touchdown run by Toby Gerhart, who had replaced an injured Adrian Peterson (ankle) for Minnesota (3-9-1).

The zaniness began when Flacco threw a 1-yard, fourth-down pass to Dennis Pitta with 2:05 go to for a 15-12 Ravens lead.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in the final 61 seconds and New England recovered an onside kick to set up the comeback win.

The Patriots (10-3) cut the deficit to 26-21 on Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 left. Cleveland received a 15-yard penalty on the play, then Kyle Arrington recovered the onside kick at the Cleveland 40-yard line.

Brady completed a 10-yard pass to Danny Amendola, then Leon McFadden was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone. That put the ball at the 1, where Brady connected with Amendola again.

New England lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a leg injury in the third quarter.

SAN FRANCISCO — Phil Dawson kicked a 22-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining and the Niners held off the nemesis Seahawks, denying Seattle a chance to clinch the division at Candlestick Park.

Frank Gore broke a 51-yard gain with just more than four minutes left to set up the go-ahead 11-play, 76-yard drive as the 49ers (9-4) kept the playoff-bound Seahawks (11-2) from grabbing away the West in San Francisco.

Dawson’s fourth field goal of the day gave him 20 straight converted field goals, a franchise record topping Joe Nedney’s 18 consecutive in 2006-07.

Russell Wilson threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson and Marshawn Lynch ran for an 11-yard score for Seattle, denied a franchise-best sixth road victory.

The 49ers are unbeaten at home against the West since losing to the Seahawks on Oct. 26, 2008.

NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns, helping New Orleans regain sole possession of first place in the NFC South and snap Carolina’s winning streak at eight games.

The Panthers’ defense had not allowed more than two touchdowns in a game this season until the Saints scored three in the second quarter alone, when Brees completed 14 of 16 passes for 159 yards.

The Saints (10-3) also became the only team this season to score more than 24 points against Carolina, which entered the game No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 13.1 points per game.

Brees’ first two scoring strikes went to Marques Colston, who made nine catches for 125 yards. Jimmy Graham added two TD receptions.

Graham Gano kicked two field goals in the first quarter for Carolina (9-4), and Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass to Steve Smith with 5:15 left in the game.

CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Bengals remained perfect at home and in control of the AFC North.

The Bengals (9-4) improved to 6-0 at Paul Brown Stadium on a cold, windy day: 28 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 19 and light flurries.

Dalton gave his most consistent performance since October, throwing for three touchdowns that kept the Bengals ahead and finishing it off with an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter. Dalton was 24 of 35 for 275 yards without a sack or interception.

LANDOVER, Md. — The Chiefs scored on their first four possessions in the snow, sacked Robert Griffin III five times and Kirk Cousins once, and returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown.

The score was 17-0 after the first quarter and 38-10 at halftime. Quintin Demps immediately answered the lone Redskins touchdown with a 95-yard kickoff return that resembled at times a winter stroll, part of a stunning tally of 321 return yards by Kansas City in the first half alone.

Jamaal Charles ran 19 times for 151 yards for Kansas City.

The Chiefs (10-3), who lost two to the Denver Broncos sandwiched around a defeat to the San Diego Chargers after starting 9-0, beat up on a bad team. The Redskins (3-10) certainly qualify: Sunday’s game was their fifth straight loss, and coach Mike Shanahan appears increasingly likely to be gone after a third losing season in four years.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer completed 27 of 32 passes, 12 of them to Larry Fitzgerald, and the Cardinals ended an eight-game losing streak against NFC West foes.

Palmer, questionable for the game with a sore right elbow, threw for 269 yards and a touchdown as the Cardinals (8-5) won for the fifth time in six games.

Arizona’s Karlos Dansby returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown and John Abraham tackled Kellen Clemens for a safety.

PITTSBURGH — Charles Clay caught two touchdown passes, including a 12-yard strike from Ryan Tannehill with 2:53 remaining.

Daniel Thomas ran for 105 yards and a score. His zig-zag 55-yard burst at snowy Heinz Field set up Clay’s winner. Tannehill completed 20 of 33 passes for 201 yards and three scores for the Dolphins (7-6). Miami won for the third time in its last four games.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 349 yards and three scores but the Steelers (5-8) lost their second straight game. Antonio Brown raced into the end zone after a series of laterals on the final play, but officials ruled he stepped out of bounds before scoring.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Matt Flynn threw for 258 yards and the Packers’ struggling defense forced a key fourth-quarter turnover to snap a five-game winless string.

Mike Neal’s sack forced Matt Ryan to fumble. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly scooped up the loose ball and celebrated with a little belly dance at chilly Lambeau Field.

Four plays later, Flynn found Andrew Quarless for a 2-yard go-ahead score with about 12 minutes left for the Packers (6-6-1).

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score as the Jets set a season high for points and stopped a three-game skid.

Chris Ivory had a touchdown run, Nick Folk kicked three field goals and Antonio Allen blocked a punt and returned it for a score to help the Jets (6-7) in the AFC playoff hunt. Smith ended a miserable stretch that included getting benched last week by throwing his first touchdown toss since Week 7.

SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers found rookie Keenan Allen for two of his three touchdown passes, and the Chargers kept alive their long-shot playoff hopes.

Manning dropped to 0-3 against San Diego since 2004, when the Chargers took him with the No. 1 overall draft pick and then sent him to the Giants for Rivers and a handful of draft picks. The Giants (5-8) were knocked out of playoff contention.

TAMPA, Fla. — Mike Glennon threw two touchdown passes and Bobby Rainey scored on an 80-yard run on the second play of the day. The Bucs (4-9) intercepted EJ Manuel four times en route to their fourth win in five games following an 0-8 start.

 

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