DETROIT (AP) — Peyton Manning was cool and confident, lofting passes to teammates like they were buddies in his backyard.
Whether it was fourth down or third down, in the second or fourth quarter, the 39-year-old Manning showed he’s still got it.
Manning converted a fourth down with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 5 seconds left in the first half. Then he threw an 11-yard TD pass to Owen Daniels on a third down with 2:28 remaining, lifting the Denver Broncos to a 24-12 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night.
Manning was 31 of 42 for 324 yards with two TDs and an interception. The five-time MVP joined Brett Favre as the only players in NFL history with at least 6,000 career completions.
The last time the Broncos (3-0) won their first three games was in 2013, when they reached the Super Bowl.
The Lions (0-3) are off to their worst start since 2010, when they finished 6-10.
Aqib Talib blocked an extra-point kick by former Bronco Matt Prater early in the second quarter to keep Denver’s one-point lead. The Broncos later stopped a 2-point conversion run, keeping them ahead 14-12 early in the third quarter.
Stafford had three turnovers, including a fumble and interception at midfield in the fourth quarter. He might’ve had a good reason to be rattled because DeMarcus Ware sacked him twice and he was hit and hurried all night in Detroit’s home opener.
Broncos running back C.J. Anderson left in the first half to be evaluated for a concussion, but was cleared and returned in the second half.
Both teams struggled to run the ball. The Broncos had more success through the air.
And, they took better care of the football.
Thomas had nine receptions for 92 yards and a lead-padding score in which he outleaped Darius Slay to snatch the football out of the air. He celebrated by backpedaling into the end zone, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Stafford was 31 of 45 for 282 yards with a 16-yard TD pass to Ameer Abdullah in the third quarter, two interceptions and a fumble on a play in which he had at least once chance to throw the ball away. Calvin Johnson had eight receptions for 77 yards and drew a pass-interference penalty against Talib in the end zone that set up Joique Bell’s 1-yard leap over a pile of lineman.
It looked like Detroit’s defense was going to prevent the Broncos from taking advantage of Stafford’s second turnover, but it negated a missed field goal by being in an illegal formation. Denver got 5 yards closer and Brandon McManus made the field goal to give the Broncos a five-point lead.
The Lions had a chance to come back, but Stafford blew it. Stafford tried to force a pass to Johnson and safety David Burton Jr. dropped into a zone to pick off the pass that he tipped to himself with his right hand, then returned 12 yards. Moments later, Manning lofted a 34-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders, who outjumped Slay, to set up his throw that only the 6-foot-3 Daniels could catch in the end zone.
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