DENVER — Peyton Manning slapped his hands together five, six, seven times and barked out the signals. A few seconds later, Wes Welker was all alone, cradling the quarterback’s latest touchdown pass.
All part of another impeccably crafted victory for Manning and the Denver Broncos (3-0), who rolled over the visiting Raiders, 37-21, on Monday night. Denver’s 127 points lead the league and are 31 more than second-place Green Bay.
Manning went 32 of 37 for 374 yards and set a few more records while outwitting the overmatched Raiders (1-2).
Manning’s 12 touchdown passes are one more than Tom Brady’s old record for the first three games, set in 2011. The record for TD passes in a season is 50, set by Brady in 2007. If he keeps up this pace, Manning will throw 64.
His first touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Eric Decker, came after a subtle play-action fake that froze the defense and left Decker wide open in the back of the end zone.
Manning’s targets for the next two touchdowns — Welker and Julius Thomas — didn’t have defenders within three steps of them.
OK, so the evening wasn’t perfect. There were the five incompletions, though two of them were flat-out drops and another two hit receivers in the hands, but would have been difficult catches. The Broncos settled for three field goals and had to punt once. Rookie Montee Ball lost another fumble.
The Raiders made one big play before the game got out of hand, when Terrelle Pryor (19 of 28 for 281 yards) hit Denarius Moore in the middle and Broncos defensive backs Duke Ihenacho and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie whiffed on the tackle. Moore went 73 yards to cut Oakland’s deficit to 17-7 in the second quarter.
Ihenacho and fellow defensive back Tony Carter later left the game with ankle injuries.