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Manning Up: A bad first half from Peyton led to...five touchdowns

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Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense had a tough time getting the ball rolling at all during most of the first half of last week's game; but once that ball got rolling, it didn't stop, leading to five passing touchdowns for Manning. Below, a breakdown of each one of those touchdowns.

Manning's rough start turned into a passing clinic in Oakland.
Manning's rough start turned into a passing clinic in Oakland.
Ezra Shaw

Recap of Last Week

After last week's loss to the Patriots, in which he threw for two touchdown passes, Peyton was on pace to finish the season with 48 touchdown passes, totaling 24 touchdowns through eight games. Manning's two touchdown passes in Week Nine came on a route in the flats by Ronnie Hillman, and a beautifully-thrown fade pass to Julius Thomas. After Week Nine, Manning was throwing at a three TD per game pace, needing four per game for the remainder of the season to challenge his 2013 single-season record.

Touchdown #1

25th touchdown of the season, 31 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: CJ Anderson

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/ 3:00

Down/Distance: 3rd and 8, DEN 49 (51-yard score)

Peyton's first touchdown of Week Ten came on what almost seemed like a running play, with CJ Anderson taking a dump-off pass out of the backfield for a long score; however, it was most definitely credited as a passing touchdown, Manning's 25th of the season.

Pre-Snap: After a first half in which Manning had already thrown two interceptions and had a hard time getting anything going against the Raiders defense, this play looked like more of the same. On the play, the Broncos lined up in 11-personnel, with CJ Anderson counting as the lone running back on the play, lined up to the right of Manning in shotgun, and Julius Thomas, the lone tight end in the formation, split a couple of yards left of the offensive line. Demaryius Thomas was split wide right for the Broncos, while Emmanuel Sanders lined up a few yards inside of him on the right side, and Wes Welker lined up just inside of Sanders, as the right inside slot receiver. On the defensive side of the ball, the Oakland Raiders lined up in a 4-2-5 nickel formation, with two deep safeties and defensive backs lined up five yards off the line of scrimmage, showing a Cover-2 zone look pre-snap.


Post-Snap: Off the snap, the Raiders defense rushes four, dropping the remaining seven defenders into pass coverage. The four defenders on the rush are able to cause pressure against the experimental Broncos offensive line, with Orlando Franklin getting beat in the left B gap, and Louis Vasquez having a difficult time sealing his block in the right C gap. Manning looks down the field, looking to convert the third-and-nine situation, but he's forced to dump the ball into the flats because of the pressure. CJ Anderson, assisting Ryan Clady in pass protection, provides a chip block on Khalil Mack, before releasing into the left flat. Manning dumps the ball off to Anderson, and the Broncos running back immediately faces a one-on-one in the open field with Raiders linebacker Khaluka Maiava.


Maiava fails to break down and over-commits in pursuit of Anderson, allowing CJ to easily break the arm tackle and continue up-field. After beating Maiava in the open field, Anderson fends off tackles from Khalil Mack and Charles Woodson along the sideline, while out-running defensive lineman, Tony Pashos and linebacker, Sio Moore. Crossing the first down line, Anderson cuts the ball back all the way across the field, outrunning the remaining Raiders defenders to the end-zone, with Demaryius and Welker lead-blocking ahead of him. No doubt, there were a number of poor tackles by the Oakland defenders, but the score was a credit to Anderson's solo effort and drive to make something happen when nothing was going right for Denver's offense.

Touchdown 2

26th touchdown of the season, 30 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/ 0:35

Down/Distance: 2nd and 9, OAK 32 (32-yard score)

Pre-Snap: The Broncos had all the same personnel on the field as their first touchdown, except for Juwan Thompson, who was taking the place of CJ Anderson in this 11-personnel formation. Thompson began the play lined up to the right of Manning in shotgun, but shifted to the left of the quarterback pre-snap. On this particular play, Emmanuel Sanders was split wide right, Julius Thomas was in a three-point stance on the right side of the offensive line, Wes Welker was split just a few yards to the left of the line, and Demaryius Thomas lined up wide left. The Raiders lined up in a 4-2-5 nickel defense on the play, with defensive backs lined up five yards off the line of scrimmage (LOS) over top of Sanders, Welker, and Demaryius, along with two deep safeties.


Post-Snap: All Broncos receivers ran deep routes on the play, except for Wes Welker, who ran a five-yard in route through the middle of the field. Emmanuel Sanders ran a double-move route on the outside, while Julius Thomas ran straight up the middle on a seam route, and Demaryius ran a fly on the opposite side of the field; Juwan Thompson ran a check-down route in the left flats, and was wide open at the time of Manning's deep pass. The Raiders defense sent a base rush of four pass rushers, which was handled quite easily by the Broncos' offensive line, giving Manning plenty of time to let the deep routes develop.


DJ Hayden, who was in man coverage on Sanders, was not fooled by the outside move from the Broncos receiver, staying with him up the field; however, Manning's throw was thrown about as perfect as a deep ball down the sidelines can be thrown, and Sanders' speed allowed him to simply beat Hayden over the top once the ball was in the air, diving and making the catch while rolling into the end-zone. The key to the play working was Manning looking off the safety, holding him in the middle of the field by making it look as though he was trying to get the ball to Julius Thomas, who was running a seam route down the middle of the field. By the time Manning released the ball, there was no chance for the safety to provide over-the-top support for Hayden.

Touchdown #3

27th touchdown of the season, 29 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Julius Thomas

Quarter/Time: 3rd Quarter/ 12:50

Down/Distance: 3rd and 2, OAK 10 (10-yard score)

Pre-Snap: The pre-snap formation consisted of Demaryius Thomas lined up wide left, Wes Welker in the right inside slot, Emmanuel Sanders in the right outside slot, and Julius Thomas lined up as the right wide receiver. CJ Anderson was the lone running back on the play, lined up to the left of Peyton Manning in the shotgun. On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders lined up in a 3-3-5 nickel formation, with defensive backs lined up one yard off the LOS opposite Demaryius, Julius, and Sanders, a safety lined up five yards off the LOS over Wes Welker, and one deep safety. Additionally, the Raiders showed a six-man rush, with all three linebackers lined up even with the defensive line.


Post-Snap: The Raiders were not bluffing with the blitz, sending six men after the quarterback on the pass rush. The offensive line is able to stave off the rush long enough for Manning to get a quick pass off, which was all that was needed. Sending six after the QB, the Raiders employed a Cover-1 coverage, with one deep safety over top of man coverage across the field. Manning, identifying this coverage scheme pre-snap, dialed up a play to the top red-zone target in the NFL this season, Julius Thomas.


Wes Welker ran a corner route from the inside right slot, drawing his defender into the end-zone, Emmanuel Sanders faked a route to the corner before pulling up short on a hook route; meanwhile, Thomas ran a slant route from the right wide receiver position. Sanders' route acted as a pick, preventing Julius' defender to follow him across the field, while Welker's route opened more space in the middle of the field once Thomas caught the pass from Manning. Upon catching the ball, Thomas had just two defenders to beat, both of whom he was able to run over on his way to the end-zone for six.

Touchdown #4

28th touchdown of the season, 28 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Julius Thomas

Quarter/Time: 3rd Quarter/ 6:59

Down/Distance: 4th and 1, OAK 32 (32-yard score)

Pre-Snap: On the fourth touchdown of the game, the Broncos attempted to convert a 4th-and-1 situation in Oakland territory. The offense lined up with Demaryius Thomas split wide left, Wes Welker in the left slot, a yard or so off the end of the offensive line, Emmanuel Sanders wide right, and Julius Thomas in tight to the right side of the line in a three-point stance; Ronnie Hillman was the lone running back, lined up to the right of Manning in shotgun. The Raiders came out in a 3-3-5 nickel defense, again showing a six-man pass rush.


Post-Snap: The Broncos fake the run off the snap, with Hillman coming across Manning's body, faking a run to the left C-gap. The offensive line does a great job of selling the run, all moving to their left, which pulls the defense all to that side of the field. Julius Thomas acts as a run blocker off the snap of the ball, running into defensive end Benson Mayowa before pushing off and running into the open space behind Charles Woodson (who had moved up to play the run) in the right flats. Emmanuel Sanders runs a go route on the outside right, drawing his man deep down the field, opening up space for Thomas to slide into. Manning rolls right on the play, after faking the hand-off, and is able to drop the ball into Julius' arms on the run. After Thomas catches the ball around the 25 yard-line, he has nothing but open field between him and the end-zone, as Sanders is able to maintain a block down-field on DJ Hayden, the only defender on that side of the field.

Touchdown #5

29th touchdown of the season, 27 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders

Quarter/Time: 3rd Quarter/1:06

Down/Distance: 2nd and 13, OAK 15 (15-yard score)

Pre-Snap: On the play that resulted in Manning's fifth and final touchdown on Sunday, the Broncos line up with the same personnel that launched the first four touchdowns. On this play, Juwan Thompson assumes the role of the running back beside Manning, while Julius Thomas remains the only tight end by definition, although he lines up as the left wide receiver. The remaining offensive personnel include Demaryius Thomas, wide right, Wes Welker in the outside right slot, and Emmanuel Sanders in the inside right slot. The Raiders again lined up in a nickel formation, this time with a 4-2-5 formation, with defensive backs lined up on all receivers except for Emmanuel Sanders, who had a linebacker lined up opposite of him.


Post-Snap: With all of the receivers in man coverage except for Sanders, Manning is looking for the first-year Broncos receiver all the way. Demaryius Thomas runs a fly route down the right side of the field, drawing his defender and the deep safety on his side of the field towards him. Wes Welker runs a short inward zig route, stopping five yards past the LOS, keeping his defender short. On the other side of the field, Julius Thomas runs a fly route as well, cutting towards the corner once he reaches the end-zone, holding the attention of the safety on that side of the field. While all this is happening (in a matter of seconds), Emmanuel Sanders runs a skinny post route through the middle of the field, into the space between the zones of the Raiders Cover-2 defense. Manning hits Sanders right between the zones of the two deep safeties, and Sanders makes a nice effort to reel in the catch, despite contact.



With five more touchdown passes in Week Ten, Manning is now just one shy of 30 on the season, in what would be his fifth straight season with 30+ touchdowns if he hits that mark, and the ninth time in his career he's hit the 30 touchdown mark. Manning's 29 touchdown passes thus far in the season have him on pace for 51, which would be just four shy of tying his 2013 single-season record, and would be the second-most touchdown passes in a single season in the history of the NFL. The Broncos play the St. Louis Rams next week, against whom Manning has thrown for five touchdowns and one interception in three career games. The Rams have allowed just 13 touchdown passes in total over the season, which is good enough for 6th in the league in that category.


Current TD Count

This Time Last Year (2013)

On Pace For

% of Last Year's Total