DENVER — A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos’ 42-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
What it means: When all was said and done, history was made and a football is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning set a new NFL record for career touchdown passes with his 509th, an 8-yard scoring toss to Demaryius Thomas with 3 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first half. Manning went on to throw his 510th as well, finishing with four scoring passes to power the Broncos to a rout on the way to a 5-1 record.
Stock watch: Manning, on a historic night in what is a historic career, was the headline, but the Broncos again flaunted an offense that features impact at every skill position. The guy to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead is running back Ronnie Hillman. Hillman, who has battled maturity issues at times in his first two years in the league, has finally shown his vast potential in this, his third season. Since Montee Ball’s groin injury against the Arizona Cardinals, Hillman has been explosive and given the Broncos’ run game a boost. He had his first career 100-yard game last week against the New York Jets and a career-long run of 37 yards for a touchdown Sunday night. He wanted to make the Broncos’ decision a difficult one when Ball returned and he has already done that.
Blue crush: Decked out in their all-navy blue uniforms Sunday, the Broncos’ defense kept 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick under wraps, especially in the run game. Kaepernick came into the game averaging 5.3 yards per carry as the 49ers’ second-leading rusher, but the Broncos continually loaded the formation with speed, often with five, six and, on a smattering of snaps, seven defensive backs. Kaepernick found room to work hard to come by. He extended some plays to create some quality work in the passing game at times, but through three quarters he had just one rushing attempt for 7 yards and the 49ers’ offense suffered because of it.
Game ball: Linebacker Von Miller deserved one, defensive end DeMarcus Ware deserved one, as did cornerback Chris Harris Jr., WR Demaryius Thomas and even perhaps a guy such as Paul Cornick, who made his first NFL start at right tackle. But history trumps all, as does a four-touchdown night with 318 yards passing. So Manning gets the nod. It was his 88th career 300-yard passing game and his 33rd game with at least four touchdown passes.
What’s next: From one prime-time spot to another with a key AFC West matchup now on the docket — the San Diego Chargers (5-2) are set to play at Denver on Thursday night. The Chargers handed the Broncos their only home loss of 2013, also on a Thursday night.