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Moreno, Manning lift Broncos over plucky yet winless Jags
Denver, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - Knowshon Moreno rushed for three second-half touchdowns and the Denver Broncos remained unbeaten with a tougher-than- expected 35-19 verdict over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Peyton Manning added two more touchdown passes to his season total and finished with 295 yards on a 28-of-42 completion rate to help Denver (6-0) to its 17th consecutive regular-season victory. Moreno compiled 104 yards from scrimmage on 15 carries and seven receptions, with Wes Welker contributing 63 yards and a touchdown on six catches to the win.
"Knowshon was huge," Manning said of Moreno. "His red-zone running was huge. I thought the running game got going a little bit better in the second half."
Entering the perceived mismatch as a near four-touchdown underdog that stood as the largest in NFL history, Jacksonville (0-6) hung tough for much of the game, boosted by a huge game from wide receiver Justin Blackmon and three turnovers out of Manning, including an interception that linebacker Paul Posluszny returned 59 yards for a touchdown late in the first half.
Blackmon racked up 190 yards on a career-high 14 catches in his second game back from a league suspension. Chad Henne threw for 303 yards on 27-of-42 passing, subbing for an injured Blaine Gabbert (hamstring), but was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter as Jacksonville was handed an 11th straight loss dating back to last season.
"We're not at all satisfied with what took place as far as the outcome," Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said. "I thought we came out ready to go. It didn't show it, though."
The Jaguars put a shock into the home crowd when Maurice Jones-Drew's 5-yard run with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter pulled the heavy underdogs within 21-19. To no one's surprise, however, Manning and the Denver offense had a response.
Manning effortlessly moved the Broncos 80 yards in eight plays, highlighted by a 42-yard connection with Demaryius Thomas into Jacksonville territory, and Moreno burst through an opening up the middle for an 8-yard run that put the Broncos up by nine with 4:02 remaining in the period.
A fumble by Manning on a shotgun snap at the Jaguars' 4-yard line early in the fourth quarter prevented Denver from tacking on a back-breaking score, but Henne was intercepted by Kayvon Webster on the ensuing drive to give the Broncos back the ball inside enemy territory.
Manning found Thomas down the right sideline for a 31-yard gain to the Jacksonville five two plays afterward, setting up Moreno's 3-yard burst that gave Denver a more-comfortable 35-19 advantage with 9:09 to go.
Jacksonville wasn't deterred, though. Two sizeable Henne completions, a 19- yarder to Blackmon and a 23-yard strike to tight end Clay Harbor, got the Jags back into scoring range. Jacksonville eventually reached the Broncos' 11, but Henne threw behind Blackmon in the end zone on fourth down with under four minutes left to all but end the upset bid.
Manning capped Denver's first two possessions with touchdown passes to stake the Broncos to a 14-0 first-quarter cushion, but the Jaguars responded with 12 consecutive points in the second to place the outcome in doubt entering halftime.
A 10-play, 48-yard series that featured Henne's 18-yard completion to Blackmon put Jacksonville in range for Josh Scobee's 50-yard field goal early in the quarter, and the Jaguars capitalized on a pair of uncommon giveaways from Manning to close the gap further.
A mishandled exchange between Manning and center Manny Ramirez resulted in a fumble recovery from Jacksonville's Sen'Derrick Marks at the Broncos' 40-yard line. Henne eventually moved the Jaguars inside the Denver 10 before the drive stalled and Scobee came on for a successful 30-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14-6 with 5:43 left in the half.
Scobee had another field goal try denied when holder Bryan Anger fumbled the snap near the end of the second quarter, but Posluszny made a leaping grab of Manning's over-the-middle throw into a deep zone, then found daylight down the right sideline and made his way into the end zone to bring Jacksonville within two points. Henne's pass intended for Blackmon on the subsequent 2-point attempt was intercepted by Champ Bailey, however, enabling Denver to stay in front.
The Jaguars nearly had another takeaway when Ronnie Hillman fumbled in the red zone on Denver's initial drive of the second half, but Eric Decker fell on the loose ball and the Broncos later grabbed a 21-12 lead on Moreno's 1-yard plunge.
Jacksonville countered with a 9-play, 80-yard jaunt to keep the pressure on. Jones-Drew ripped off a 28-yard run to cross midfield, then plowed across the goal line from five yards out shortly afterward to make it a two-point spread once more.
The Jaguars were aggressive early on, with Bradley calling for a fake punt deep in his team's own end on the game's opening series. Fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou was stuffed by Mitch Unrein short of the marker, however, and Manning took over at his opponent's 27-yard line.
A holding penalty backed the Broncos up a bit, but Moreno turned a screen toss on 3rd-and-20 into a 28-yard gain to the Jacksonville nine and Manning hit a wide-open Julius Thomas for a 3-yard touchdown three plays later to give Denver a 7-0 edge less than three minutes in.
Denver increased the margin with a 12-play, 95-yard sequence on its next trip, with a personal foul call on the Jaguars' Alan Branch on third down extending the drive. Manning hit on three straight passes after the penalty, the last a short delivery to Welker that the standout slot receiver weaved his way through traffic for a 20-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts did not return after spraining his shoulder on the Jaguars' first series ... Manning now has 22 touchdown passes through the season's first six games, breaking Tom Brady's previous NFL record of 21 over such a span set in 2007 ... Welker's touchdown came on his 800th career reception ... Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who served as Jacksonville's head coach for nine seasons, faced his former team for the first time since being dismissed by the Jags late in the 2011 season ... Bailey saw his first game action of 2013 after being sidelined the first five weeks by a sprained foot ... Denver middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard was inactive due to a neck injury, while offensive tackle Orlando Franklin hurt his knee on Moreno's first touchdown and did not return.
10/13 21:57:41 ET