Peyton Manning furthered his cause to not only be the Comeback Player of the Year but also the NFL MVP as the Denver Broncos clinched the AFC West division title defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-23 in a stirring performance at Sports Authority Field in Denver this afternoon.
In a masterful performance, Manning connected for three touchdowns through the air with two of those going to second year wide receiver Demaryius Thomas who collected 8 catches for 99 yards. The other top recipient of Peyton’s good day was his tight end who followed him from the Indianapolis Colts – Jacob Tamme had a team high nine receptions and made the most of them for 89 yards.
For Tampa Bay it was a very good effort from a team that has simply struggled to beat good quarterback play this season. The defensive line had a decent day as they put as much pressure on the Broncos offensive line as possible and despite giving up 91 rushing yards were solid throughout. It was a good day for third year quarterback Josh Freeman too as he threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns. It was an emotional scene as former Indianapolis Colt Dallas Clark scored the opening TD of the game against his former signal caller. The other score was caught by Mike Williams who put in one of his best performances this year with 6 receptions for 93 yards to go with the touchdown.
There were two major points which swayed this game for Denver. The most crucial was how the defense handled outstanding rookie running back Doug Martin who struggled to make much headway against the Broncos defensive line causing the Bucs to eventually give up on the run – Martin would finish with only 18 carries for 56 yards. The other was the one interception that Josh Freeman threw all day – NFL sack leader and possible Defensive Player of the Year Von Miller made a leaping snatch to pluck the bal from the air and then turned on his acceleration to run in the pick for a score. This proved to be the winning play of the game as Tampa Bay never recovered and eventually fell.
Next week the Denver Broncos travel west for a Thursday night division game at the Oakland Raiders while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go home to face the struggling Philadelphia Eagles.