Peyton Manning on fire as the Denver Broncos crush the Oakland Raiders
NHL records under threat as Denver register their 14th regular-season victory in succession
Peyton Manning slapped his hands together five, six, seven times and barked out the signals. A few seconds later, Wes Welker was all alone, cradling the quarterback's latest touchdown pass.
It was all part of another impeccably crafted victory for Manning and the Denver Broncos, who rolled over the Oakland Raiders 37-21. Denver's 127 points lead the league and are 31 more than second-placed Green Bay Packers.
It was Denver's 14th successive regular-season win, tying the franchise record set in 1998 when the Broncos won their second Super Bowl.
Manning went 32 for 37 for 374 yards and put his name in the record books a few more times while outwitting the outclassed Raiders (1-2).
"You see flashes of good things," Manning said. "When we're executing and not making mistakes, we can go the distance. We can go 80 yards, take advantage of a short field."
Manning's 12 touchdown passes are one more than Tom Brady's old record for the first three games, set in 2011. Manning still has yet to throw an interception, which matches a record held by Michael Vick, who also threw 12 touchdowns before his first pick in 2010.
"We get to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks and football players to ever play the game," said tight-end Julius Thomas, who caught one of the touchdowns.
"He's great. There's no other way to cut it up or slice it."
As much as the numbers, it was Manning's deciphering of the Oakland defence that made jaws drop in this one.
His first touchdown, a two-yard pass to Eric Decker (eight catches, 133 yards), came after a subtle play-action fake that froze the defence and left Decker uncovered in the back of the end zone.
Manning's targets for the next two touchdowns - Welker and Thomas - didn't have defenders within three steps of them when they caught the passes. A sure sign that Manning had diagnosed the defence he was looking at well before the snap and knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball.
"You see what he can do. I don't even know too many people who can do that in Madden," running back Ronnie Hillman said, referring to a popular video game. "It's pretty cool to have a quarterback like that."
Maybe the evening was not perfect. There were the five incompletions, though two of them were flat-out drops and another two hit receivers in the hands, but would have been difficult catches to make.