12/09 02:33 CST 5 things to know after Broncos beat Titans 51-28
5 things to know after Broncos beat Titans 51-28
By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
DENVER (AP) -- All season, Matt Prater has been an afterthought on a team
that's rewriting the record books on the strength of Peyton Manning's passing
Now, the Broncos kicker has his name next to one of the most hallowed NFL marks
Prater booted a 64-yard field goal to highlight Denver's 51-28 victory over
Tennessee on Sunday, brushing aside the mark of 63 yards that was first set by
Tom Dempsey, the club-footed Saints kicker, all the way back in 1970.
"I knew I hit it pretty good, but I just wasn't sure with the cold and
everything if it was going to make it," Prater said. "But when I saw the refs'
hands go up, I can't even explain how I felt after."
Yes, it was cold - 18 degrees at kickoff. But on a day supposedly not
well-suited for kicking or throwing, Manning joined Prater in merely laughing
at the weather. Manning also sent a message in his own special way to the folks
who've been questioning his ability to play when it's cold.
"I won't try to answer it because I didn't give it any validation in the first
place," said the quarterback, who is 4-7 in games where the temperature is 32
or below at kickoff.
Manning completed a franchise-record 39 passes. His 59 attempts tied the
Broncos mark. He finished with 397 yards and this marked his seventh
four-touchdown game, most in NFL history in a season. By outscoring the Titans
(5-8) 31-7 in the second half, the Broncos (11-2) wrapped up a playoff spot
that was all but a foregone conclusion.
They still need wins to secure the AFC West and home-field advantage. But their
last three opponents, starting Thursday with San Diego, have a combined record
of 12-27. It will be an upset if the Broncos lose - or if Manning fails to
break the single-season touchdowns record. He has 45 and needs six more.
Five things we learned from Denver's chilly victory over Tennessee:
IT'S NOT THE COLD: Manning is now 2-2 in cold games with the Broncos. The two
victories came over Kansas City last year and Tennessee this year, teams with a
combined .259 winning percentage. The two losses came to Baltimore, the
eventual Super Bowl champions, in last season's playoffs and New England this
year. The newest thought on Manning and the weather: It's more who he's going
against than the conditions he's playing them in.
PLAYOFF CHATTER: The Titans are now playing to finish at .500. A playoff spot,
however, is a very remote possibility. Though they got off to a wonderful start
_ a 57-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Justin Hunter on the game's fourth
play set up an early touchdown - Tennessee couldn't sustain against a team with
this much firepower. As a result, the Titans are closing in on their fifth
straight season without a playoff appearance. "I'm not worrying about that,"
coach Mike Munchak said. "You're going to see us at our best the next three
WES WORRIES: Wes Welker took a blow to the head in the second quarter and left
with a concussion. It's his second concussion in four games. With a short
turnaround, it would be a surprise if he's ready for the Chargers. It's quite a
loss, of course. Though he played only a half, Manning targeted him 10 times
and he caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
THE GOOD AND THE BAD: The Broncos defense was unimpressive early, allowing big
plays and three touchdowns over the first 23 minutes. In the end, however,
Tennessee converted only two of nine third downs and ran only 48 plays,
compared to 91 for the Broncos offense. And the Titans gained only 254 yards,
the lowest total the Broncos have allowed all season. Meanwhile, special teams
gave up a 95-yard return. But a day in which the kicker sets an NFL record
almost has to be viewed as a good one.
BRIGHT FUTURE: Hunter, the Titans rookie second-round draft pick, caught four
passes for 115 yards and a score. He has now surpassed the 100-yard mark twice
in the last three games. It's a bright sign for an offense in desperate need of
some playmakers - a need made that much more glaring on a day when Chris
Johnson gained only 46 yards and averaged 3.8 per carry.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org
Follow AP National Writer Eddie Pells on Twitter: http://twitter.com/epells