Going on the road in a short week is a tough task for any NFL team.
Now the Denver Broncos get the reward for beating the division rival Oakland Raiders - three extra days of rest before their most important game remaining in the regular season.
Peyton Manning threw for 310 yards and had his 30th touchdown pass of the season on the game's opening drive to help the Broncos roll to their eighth straight victory, 26-13 over the Raiders on Thursday night.
"These Thursday night games are tough, especially late in the year,'' Manning said. "I know I'm tired.''
Knowshon Moreno ran for 119 yards and a score on a career-high 32 carries, and Matt Prater kicked four field goals to help the Broncos (10-3) move a half-game ahead of New England and Baltimore for the second-best record in the AFC.
Denver now gets the extra rest before visiting the Ravens next week in a game that will help decide who gets a first-round playoff bye.
"It means a lot,'' cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We're probably going to need it. The more preparation you could have for a team like that, the better.''
Carson Palmer threw one interception that thwarted a possible scoring chance for the Raiders (3-10) and lost a fumble that set up a touchdown for the Broncos as Oakland lost its sixth straight game. It is the team's longest skid since also losing six in a row in 2007.
The Raiders played the game with heavy hearts as coach Dennis Allen's father, Grady, died earlier in the week from cardiac arrest. Allen was away from the team for two days but returned Wednesday and coached the game.
"I took my father off life support (voice cracking), and that's not easy to do,'' Allen said. "So was it hard? Yeah, it was hard. But I know my father would want me to be here with this football team, and I wanted to be here with this football team. So I'm sure you guys can imagine it wasn't an easy situation.''
The Raiders' players talked during the week about rallying around their first-year coach, but came out flat against a fierce division rival and were swept in the season series by the Broncos for the first time since 2006.
The game was mildly competitive for only a brief time as the Raiders got on the board late in the first half on a touchdown pass from Palmer to Darren McFadden and then started with the ball in the third quarter trailing 13-7.
McFadden, returning from a four-game absence for a sprained right ankle, broke off a 36-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, but the Raiders' drive stalled in Denver territory after that and the Broncos took the game over. McFadden later left the game after re-injuring the ankle.
Manning, who joined Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with 5,000 career completions, converted a third-and-11 with a perfectly placed 22-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas. Manning followed that with a 29-yard completion to Eric Decker, but the drive stalled after a pass-interference call on Matt Giordano gave the Broncos a first down at the 1. Matt Prater's 20-yard field goal made it 16-7.
Mike Goodson then made the ill-advised decision to return a kick from 8 yards deep in the end zone, forcing Oakland to start a drive at their 8. Von Miller then beat Khalif Barnes for a sack on third down, stripping the ball from Palmer. Mitch Unrein recovered at the 2 and Moreno scored two plays later to make it 23-7.
Moreno is filling in for the injured Willis McGahee and is giving the Broncos the running game they will need to be successful in the postseason.
"You always have to have your mind ready to carry it as many times as they need,'' Moreno said. "That's what we needed. It felt good. It felt good for this offense, you know all the hard work that we do put in.''
Prater added another field goal later in the third quarter and Manning went on to his record 12th season with 10 wins as a starting quarterback.
The only remaining drama was whether quarterback project Terrelle Pryor would get his first action of the season for Oakland. He didn't, giving the frustrated Raiders fans yet another reason to be upset even though Palmer added a 56-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey and finished with 273 yards passing.
"To rack up this many losses in a row in the fashion that we've done is just extremely frustrating,'' Palmer said.
After the game police said a man fell from the upper deck at the stadium shortly before kickoff and was in serious condition at a hospital. Initial reports called the fall an accident, but police said it remained under investigation. The team had no comment.
Going on the road in a short week is a tough task for any NFL team.
'Twice as Nice'
When it comes to the 3A State Tournament and Oklahoma City, the Verdigris High School basketball teams are a household name.
Head coaches Randy Upshaw and Mike Buntin lead their programs back to the 'Capitol City' this week for a chance to hoist the coveted 3A state championship on Saturday night at the Big House.
Cards fly into 3A State Tournament
Verdigris junior guard Cade Upshaw lives for March Madness.
The 5-foot-10 sharp-shooter overcame a sluggish performance in a loss to Tahlequah Sequoyah to bounce back for a 20-point outing in the Cardinals’ 72-42 win over Antlers Saturday evening in the Class 3A Area Tournament at Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Vinita eliminates Inola
Vinita used an 18-point third quarter — highlighted by the sophomore leadership of Carsyn Spurgeon — and converted 21-of-34 free throws to notch a 61-55 win over the Inola Lady Longhorns Saturday night in the Class 4A Area Tournament.
‘Soaring to State’
In the hometown of Carrie Underwood, Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell proved to be Oklahoma’s ‘Basketball Idol’ in Class 3A Girls Basketball.
The 5-foot-8 floor general put the No. 4-ranked Lady Cardinals on her shoulders and carried Verdigris back to the the state tournament with the 53-40 win over No. 5 Tahlequah Sequoyah Friday night in the Area Championship at the Checotah Event Center.
CLASS 4A AREA TOURNEY: Stilwell advances to State
A jam-packed, vocal crowd — aided by the control of several Claremore Police officers — witnessed Stilwell’s come-from-behind 57-51 win over Harrah Saturday night in the must-win game of the Class 4A Area Tournament at the Claremore High School Gymnasium.
SOFTBALL: Arkansas cruises past Miss. Valley State
The University of Arkansas softball team completed an undefeated run through the Razorback Invitational Sunday afternoon win with a 13-5 victory over Mississippi Valley State at Bogle Park.
AAC WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: No. 1 UConn routs No. 3 Louisville for title
New league, same result. It's another championship for UConn.
Breanna Stewart scored 20 points and top-ranked Connecticut beat No. 3 Louisville 72-52 on Monday night to win the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB TOURNEY: Sims leads Baylor to championship
Nothing was going to stop Odyssey Sims.
Not her early foul trouble, West Virginia's suffocating defense or the left ankle injury she suffered less than t wo minutes into the Big 12 championship game.
Sims, the Big 12 player of the year, bounced back and scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half to help No. 9 Baylor defeat No. 7 West Virginia 74-71 Monday night and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. It was Sims' fourth championship in four years.
BIG 12 WOMEN'S BB: Kansas State fires coach Deb Patterson
Kansas State has fired women's basketball coach Deb Patterson, announcing the move two days after an opening-round loss in the Big 12 tournament.
NCAA MEN'S BB: Florida, Wichita State stay 1-2 in AP poll
Florida, which finished an unbeaten season in the Southeastern Conference, and Wichita State, which completed an undefeated regular season, are the top two teams in the AP college basketball poll for the third straight week.
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