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Broncos clinch playoff berth with rout of Titans
Denver, CO (SportsNetwork.com) -- Peyton Manning continued his run of success with 397 yards and four touchdown passes as the Denver Broncos ripped off 24 consecutive points en route to a convincing 51-28 decision over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Manning set a single-game club record with 39 completions on a personal-record 59 attempts for the Broncos (11-2), who maintained their one-game edge over the Chiefs in the AFC West as well as a one-game lead over New England for the top spot in the conference with their fifth win in six games.
"We had a good plan," said Manning. "I thought we threw the ball well and guys caught the ball well."
Matt Prater connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, and set a new NFL record when he booted a 64-yard try on the final play of the first half to help Denver clinch a playoff berth.
"I knew I hit it pretty good," said Prater. "I wasn't sure with the cold and everything if it was going to make it. Then I saw the refs hands go up, and I can't even explain how I felt after."
Eric Decker led a stacked receiving corps with 117 yards and a score on eight catches, while Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas added a TD grab apiece in the rout.
Wes Welker did not return after halftime, diagnosed with a concussion, but posted 61 yards and a touchdown on five catches before departing.
Knowshon Moreno led the rushing attack thanks to 78 yards on 14 carries.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was held to 172 yards on 13-of-24 passing with a touchdown and interception for the Titans (5-8), who have dropped four of their last five to jeopardize their playoff hopes.
"We hung in there I thought," said Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak. "We knew we'd have to play our best to win and unfortunately, in spots we played very well and obviously we couldn't make the plays to keep the game going there in the fourth quarter."
Justin Hunter notched 114 yards and a score on four receptions, Shonn Greene crossed the goal line twice on rushes and Chris Johnson was held to 46 yards and one TD on 12 carries in defeat.
Typical for this season's Broncos, the hosts began the second half with the ball and picked up seven points on Demaryius Thomas' 4-yard catch to cap an 80-yard drive to make it 27-21.
Fitzpatrick was picked off by Terrance Knighton on the third play of the following series. Denver made short work of the next touch, needing seven plays -- aided by a defensive holding call -- to go up 34-21 on Moreno's 1- yard plunge.
The Titans snapped the run when Hunter dove in the end zone to bring down a Fitzpatrick heave for a 41-yard connection and a six-point spread with 4:50 left in the third. Tennessee got a reprieve when Andre Caldwell's 104-yard kickoff return was negated by a Broncos penalty, but the hosts nonetheless took a 37-28 lead early in the fourth on Prater's 19-yard boot.
Von Miller then forced a fumble from Johnson near midfield, and the Broncos needed three plays plus a facemask penalty to assume a 44-28 edge on a 20-yard Manning-to-Decker touchdown strike with 9:12 left in the contest.
Montee Ball posted a 5-yard TD run with 3:07 to play which capped the blowout.
Greene's one-yard plunge gave the Titans a lead after their first possession, but the Broncos countered on the next touch on Welker's 1-yard scoring catch to end a 74-yard march.
Nate Washington returned the kickoff 95 yards to the Denver 3-yard line, and on the next snap Johnson rolled in for a 14-7 Tennessee edge.
On the ensuing drive, Decker dove along the left sideline to haul in a Manning pass, and he fell into the end zone with a minute to go in the opening quarter. Review determined he was down by contact at the two. The Broncos had a potential TD pass to Welker taken away by review on 2nd-and-goal and had to settle for Prater's 25-yard make.
Greene's 28-yard run to paydirt provided a 21-10 advantage for the visitors in the second quarter, but Denver rebounded to trail by one at the half.
First, replay upheld an 8-yard strike from Manning to Julius Thomas with 1:50 remaining, and Prater made history with his long boot on the final play of the half.
The ball, struck right down the middle, had inches to spare as it sailed just over the crossbar.
Before Prater's record kick, Tom Dempsey (1970), Jason Elam (1998), Sebastian Janikowski (2011) and David Akers (2012) held a share of the previous mark at 63 yards ... Denver tied an NFL record by posting its third 50-plus-point effort of the season, matching the 1969 Minnesota Vikings ... The Broncos also set a club record for points in a single season with their Sunday total boosting their overall total to 508 ... The 91 plays executed by the hosts were the most for the franchise in a non-overtime contest.
12/08 22:57:16 ET