After getting sacked silly in his first three games in Denver, Manning was upright all afternoon in leading the Denver Broncos to a 37-6 rout of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Manning walked off the field with a mile-wide smile and a clean jersey after ruining Dennis Allen's homecoming by picking apart a Raiders secondary filled with backups and hardly getting pressured by a pass rush.
The Broncos (2-2) outscored their archrival 27-0 in the second half as Manning, who was sacked eight times in his first three games, had plenty of time to throw to his open targets.
"Nothing magic that I could share with you," Manning said. "But we were determined. ... Probably had our best week of practice. That is something we really emphasized. That doesn't always guarantee that you will play well on Sunday, but it gives you a better chance."
It might also be a sign that Manning's rhythm and rapport with his receivers is rounding into form after he threw a career-high 26 incompletions last week against Houston following a three-interception performance at Atlanta.
"He's getting more comfortable," coach John Fox said. "Let's not forget he didn't play for over a year and this is a new team, new coaching staff, new city, new field, new everything for him. The type of guy he is, he's going to get better and better."
Picking and poking with short crossing routes and screen passes against a depleted Oakland defence, Manning finished with 338 yards and three scores on 30 of 38 passing. For the second straight game, he didn't throw an interception.
Topping it off, he handed the Raiders (1-3) their worst loss in this heated AFC West rivalry in nearly a half-century.
"Well, it was nothing more than an old-fashioned butt-whupping," quarterback Carson Palmer said after the Raiders' first loss in Denver in five seasons and their worst defeat in the series since Oct. 5, 1962, when they were humiliated 44-7 at old Bears Stadium.
Manning had his record-extending 65th 300-yard passing game, wasn't sacked, intercepted or hurried and Willis McGahee recorded his 32nd 100-yard rushing game, tops among active NFL players.
"They outcoached us, they outplayed us, they beat us in every phase of the game," said Allen, Oakland's first-year coach who was Denver's defensive co-ordinator in 2011.
Allen pledged to use the upcoming bye week to evaluate everything from schemes to personnel.
Oakland came in without injured starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, which has forced a number of changes — none of them for the better.
"It's hard to play against Peyton Manning no matter what," Allen said. "He's a Hall of Fame quarterback and there's a reason he's a Hall of Fame quarterback. But we've got the guys that we have, and that's who we've got to go out and play with and we've got to play at an NFL level."
The Broncos gained 101 more yards than the Raiders in the first half, but only led 10-6 going into the locker room, thanks to two big blunders: a Demaryius Thomas fumble after a 40-yard reception and kicker Matt Prater's misfire on a pass to left guard Zane Beadles on a fake field goal.
"It's one of the all-time great combinations, right? It's Kelly-Reed, Montana-Rice, Prater-Beadles," Manning joked.
Thanks to those gaffes, the Raiders came out of the tunnel for the second half feeling like they could win this one.
"We were in good shape at halftime," said Lamarr Houston, who recovered Thomas' fumble. "We were in the game."
Not for long.
The Broncos were so efficient that they didn't punt at all — only the fifth time that's happened in franchise history.
The Raiders gave up three TDs in the third quarter while going three-and-out three times. They've now been outscored 55-7 in the third quarter.
"You've got to stay on the field and we didn't do that," Palmer said. "We left our defence hanging, we left them on the field too long in the third quarter."
The Broncos, who had allowed Darren McFadden 508 yards and three touchdowns over the last four meetings, held him to 34 yards on 13 carries.
"I just feel we never really stayed in sync on offence," McFadden said.
Palmer was sacked three times, but the Raiders couldn't get to Manning before or after centre J.D. Walton hurt his left ankle and was replaced by veteran Dan Koppen in the second quarter.
The referees were no factor. They called nine penalties, five for 41 yards against the newly disciplined Raiders. The Broncos had amassed more than $150,000 in fines over the first three weeks and, though there weren't any obviously finable infractions in this one, they played like bullies, outgaining the Raiders 503-237.
Manning agreed it helped having the regular officials back to keep the game moving quickly.
"Yeah, sure. I guess so," he said. "I want to keep it kind. It was good to have them back. I think there are still some things they could do better. I don't want to inflate their egos."
NOTES: The Raiders have allowed more points over the first four games (125) than in any year except 1961 and 1962, before the late Al Davis took over. ... Even with a 2-yard punt, Raiders P Shane Lechler averaged 49.4 yards on seven kicks. ... This game was just the eighth in NFL history in which a team won by 30 or more points without the benefit of a takeaway. ... The Broncos have just one home game between now and Nov. 18 with four road games and a bye in that span.
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