Manning outduels Brees as Broncos crush Saints
Denver, CO – Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns and Willis McGahee rushed for another as the Denver Broncos rolled over the New Orleans Saints, 34-14, on Sunday.
Manning completed 22-of-30 passes for 305 yards, while McGahee finished with 122 yards on 23 carries for the Broncos (4-3), who have won three of their last four and now own sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Demaryius Thomas caught seven balls for a game-high 137 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
Drew Brees went 22-for-42 through the air for 213 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for New Orleans (2-5), which had its two-game win streak snapped.
It was the first game for New Orleans under new interim coach Joe Vitt, who was suspended for the season's first six games for his involvement in the Saints' bounty case.
Aaron Kromer guided the team through the first part of the season.
Denver started its second possession of the game at its own 2-yard line, and following four straight runs by McGahee, Manning found Thomas deep down the middle for a 41-yard gain.
After McGahee had a 15-yard touchdown catch overturned when a review revealed his knee hit the ground at the one before he could extend the ball across the goal line, the running back capped the 11-play trek on the next snap with a rush off the right side for a 7-0 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
The Saints were held to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and were forced to punt from deep inside their own territory, resulting in the Broncos regaining the ball at the New Orleans' 48.
But three plays later, McGahee had the ball punched out of his hands by Akiem Hicks and the Saints recovered at their own 45-yard line.
New Orleans was able to capitalize on the turnover on the first play of the second quarter when Darren Sproles caught a short pass over the middle and raced 29 yards into the end zone.
The Saints opted to go for a 4th-and-2 at the Denver 47 on their next possession, but Brees was intercepted by a leaping Wesley Woodyard on a pass attempt over the middle, giving the Broncos the ball at their own 44.
Manning connected with Thomas for a 34-yard gain on the next play from scrimmage to move the ball deep into New Orleans territory before Eric Decker capped the 5-play march with a 13-yard reception in the right side of the end zone.
Denver took over on offense at its own 13 following a Saints punt, and Manning had completions of 19 and 23 yards to McGahee and Decker, respectively, to move the ball across midfield, setting up Matt Prater's 33-yard field goal as time expired in the half for a 17-7 lead at the break.
The Broncos received the ball to start the third quarter and quickly added to their lead with an 11-play, 93-yard drive highlighted by Ronnie Hillman's 31- yard run and capped with Thomas' 1-yard touchdown grab in the front corner of the end zone.
Denver later started a drive at its own 49-yard line following a series of punts, and Jacob Tamme reeled off a 23-yard gain on a screen pass before a 23- yard reception by Thomas placed the ball at the New Orleans five.
Two plays later, Decker hauled in a 2-yard touchdown for a 31-7 advantage with 14:54 left in the game.
After Prater connected on a 33-yard field goal with 5:27 remaining, New Orleans converted a pair of fourth downs during a 13-play, 80-yard march that Jimmy Graham finished off with an 18-yard touchdown grab.
The Saints then failed to recover an onside kick and Denver was able to run out the majority of the clock.
Manning recorded his 37th career game with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions, breaking his tie with Brett Favre for the most such games in NFL history ... Brees' touchdowns were the 300th and 301st of his career, moving him past Hall of Famer John Elway for fifth most all-time ... Decker has a touchdown reception in four straight games ... Denver has won four straight meetings between the teams and leads the all-time series, 8-2.