4:05 PM ET, December 8, 2013
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Matt Prater hits record-breaking FG as Broncos clinch playoff spot
As in, an NFL-record 64-yard field goal to go along with 39 completions, 397 yards passing and, of course, 51 points.
That the temperature was only 18 degrees at kickoff and only 14 when Prater kicked his way to one of the most iconic records in the game felt more annoying than anything. Same for the opponent -- the Tennessee Titans, who fought gamely for a half before falling 51-28 on Sunday to the Broncos, who clinched a playoff berth.
More Titans-Broncos coverage
Another botched call had Bernard Pollard and the Titans furious, and they weren't shy about saying so, writes Paul Kuharsky. Story
As for all those doubts about Manning's abilities in the cold: "I won't try to answer it because I didn't give it any validation in the first place," said the quarterback, who is now 4-7 in games where the temperature is 32 or below at kickoff.
The cold certainly didn't bother Prater, who lashed his 64-yarder through the icy air on the last play of the first half. Yes, it was at altitude in Denver, same as two of the four 63-yarders from years past.
"But I think the 10-degree weather takes out the altitude," Prater said.
Manning's 39 completions set a team record. His 59 attempts matched a franchise high. His seven games this year with at least four touchdowns are the most in NFL history. He's now in the playoffs for the 13th time, which breaks a record for a quarterback that he shared with Brett Favre. Manning led the Broncos (11-2) past the 50-point mark for the third time this year, the first time a team has done that since the NFL merger in 1970.
The Broncos ran a whopping 91 plays on offense, giving them plenty of chances to eat away at a 21-10 second-quarter deficit.
"We were doing well at the beginning, but they took off like a rocket," Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner said.
Despite the gaudy numbers, 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 a few times early, 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 needed 11 snaps from that distance to get two touchdowns and a field goal.
Those struggles 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 its deficit to 21-17 and a penalty forced Manning to start from his 15 with 52 seconds left in the first half. An 18-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas got the ball near midfield with 7 seconds left. Then Manning completed a quick 7-yarder to Jacob Tamme, who went out of bounds with 3 seconds.
On came Prater. With steam pouring from his mouth, he lined up on the right hash mark at the Denver 46, just a few steps over from the eye of the Broncos logo. The kick cleared the crossbar with a bit of room to spare, and holder Britton Colquitt jumped piggyback onto the kicker to celebrate.
"I think I just said, 'Kick it as hard as you can,' " Colquitt said. "I didn't want to put that bug in, 'Hey, this is the record.' "
Prater broke the mark held by four kickers, set first in 1970 by Tom Dempsey and most recently matched by David Akers, whose kick last season in Green Bay bounced on the crossbar before going over.
Manning led the Broncos on an 80-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter and the Broncos didn't trail again.
And speaking of big numbers: The quarterback's 4,522 yards and 45 touchdowns this season remain on pace to break the NFL records of 5,476 and 50.
The Broncos dedicated the press box to longtime public-relations man Jim Saccomano, who is retiring after the season. ... Titans WR Hunter cracked the 100-yard mark for the second time in three weeks, finishing with four catches for 115 yards. ... Knowshon Moreno and Wes Welker each reached double digits in touchdowns Sunday and the Broncos became the first team to have four players score 10 or more in a season.
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 8: Head Coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos walks on the field for the first time since...(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.3||6.1|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||2-2||5-7|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|TD||12:43||Shonn Greene 1 Yard Run (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yds, 2:23
|TD||7:33||Wes Welker 1 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 13 plays, 74 yds, 5:09
|TD||7:13||Chris Johnson 3 Yard Run (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 3 yds, 0:27
|FG||0:29||Matt Prater 25 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 9 plays, 51 yds, 2:24
|TD||7:07||Shonn Greene 28 Yard Run (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 89 yds, 3:38
|TD||1:55||Julius Thomas 8 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 81 yds, 5:08
|FG||0:03||Matt Prater 64 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 8 plays, 39 yds, 0:51
|TD||11:58||Demaryius Thomas 4 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 3:08
|TD||7:38||Knowshon Moreno 1 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 43 yds, 2:56
|TD||4:59||Justin Hunter 41 Yard Pass From Ryan Fitzpatrick (Rob Bironas Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 2:44
|FG||13:18||Matt Prater 19 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 13 plays, 79 yds, 6:35
|TD||9:19||Eric Decker 20 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 32 yds, 0:35
|TD||3:12||Montee Ball 5 Yard Run (Matt Prater Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 49 yds, 5:06
After entering this season with just 1 50-point game in franchise history (804 games), the Broncos have scored at least 50 points 3 times in 13 games this season.[+]
Another Nifty Effort - Broncos Franchise History
Three former University of Tennessee wide receivers, who are rookies this season, made big impacts on Sunday. Justin Hunter had 114 yards and a TD for the Titans, Cordarrelle Patterson posted 141 yards and a TD for the Vikings and Da'Rick Rogers (played last year at Tennessee Tech after transferring from UT) posted 107 yards and 2 TD for the Colts.
The Broncos have scored 515 points this season... With 3 games remaining, that's already 11th on the all-time list for a single season. If they score at their season average over the final 3 games, they'll break the NFL record by 44 points.
Peyton Manning was 35-of-45 with four touchdowns when the Titans brought four or fewer pass rushers Sunday. The Titans had allowed only three passing touchdowns when using such pass rushes all season. Manning wasn't sacked and was put under duress on only two of those 45 dropbacks against four or fewer rushers (4.4%), his lowest percentage under pressure this season.
If history is any indication, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are set to make things interesting atop the AFC standings. Tom Brady is 46-10 against the Patriots remaining opponents, the 2nd-best career win pct among QB with 10+ combined games vs their team's remaining opponents. Peyton Manning isn't far behind; he has the 3rd-best career win pct (.764) among QB with 10+ combined games vs their team's remaining opponents.[+]
Eric Decker caught all three of his targets on passes 15 yards or more downfield Sunday, including a touchdown. Decker is just the second player to have such a touchdown against the Titans this season.[+]
Peyton Manning posted a 91.6 Total QBR against the Titans. It is his 14th game with a Total QBR above 90 in 29 starts with the Broncos, most in the NFL.[+]
2013 will be Peyton Manning's 13th playoff appearance, breaking a tie with Brett Favre for the most in league history.[+]
Shonn Greene has two rushing touchdowns in the first half. He had one touchdown coming into the game.
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