Peyton Manning never even got his jersey dirty and was able to do just about whatever he wanted against the porous Buccaneers secondary. Despite having a 10-7 lead at halftime Tampa Bay ran the ball only four times in the second half as Josh Freeman was forced to continually throw under relentless pressure, mostly by Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
Manning and the Broncos took a quick seven-point lead on their first drive of the game on a touchdown pass to defensive end Mitch Unrein.
The Bucs countered with a 31-yard field goal from Connor Barth and after forcing the Broncos to punt the Bucs drove down the field and Josh Freeman connected with Dallas Clark for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs a three-point lead, 10-7.
The score would remain that way into the third quarter, mainly because the Broncos repeatedly attempted to run on the Buccaneers stout run defense. Doug Martin ran for 48 of his 56 yards in the first half and added three catches for another 42 yards.
The second half was completely controlled by the Broncos as their defense forced the Bucs to punt again and again. The Broncos first drive of the second half ended when Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown to give Denver the lead, 14-10. Another stalled Bucs drive led to another Demaryius Thomas touchdown and Denver was beginning to pull away from Tampa Bay.
The Broncos only managed one sack of Freeman but the Buccaneers patchwork offensive line was barely able to keep the Broncos defense at bay. One of the big plays of the game was a pick-six thrown by Freeman to Von Miller, Freeman was hit as he threw and the pass went right to Miller for the easy defensive touchdown. That gave the Broncos a 28-10 lead and was all they would need for the victory.
Tampa Bay was able to come back, a little, in the fourth quarter and cut the Broncos lead to eight after field goals and a touchdown pass from Freeman to Mike Williams, but the game was in hand for Denver.
Freeman finished the game 18-of-39 with 242 yards and two touchdowns with one huge interception. Tampa Bay converted only 25% of their third down attempts and more importantly the Bucs had 11 penalties totaling 80 yards. When the Broncos didn’t get pressure on Freeman it was because the offensive line was committing a penalty.
Manning did not throw for 300 yards but did throw three touchdowns against the Buccaneers inept pass defense. Demaryius Thomas finished with eight catches for 99 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The Bucs never put pressure on Manning and as a result Tampa Bay witnessed exactly what Peyton Manning can do when he has protection, use a defense.
The Buccaneers slip to 6-6 and will play host to Philadelphia next week. Denver clinched the AFC West with their victory and will travel to Oakland to face the Raiders next Sunday. The Bucs will honor their 2002 Super Bowl winning team at half-time next week as legends such as John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and many other members of that team will be in attendance.