Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson celebrates his touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey
December 29, 2014

DENVER (AP) The team that rolled into the Super Bowl on the strength of Peyton Manning's right arm last season doesn't look nearly as efficient through the air anymore.

The Denver Broncos couldn't be happier with the way they've morphed into a well-rounded team that can win in the wintry weather: with a dominant defense and a good ground game.

''I feel good about this team,'' Broncos coach John Fox said, adding he'll feel even better after ''a week's rest.''

The Broncos (12-4) secured the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a 47-14 whooping of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in which Manning didn't throw a single touchdown pass.

While Manning was held out of the end zone for the second time this month - after throwing a touchdown pass for 51 consecutive games - C.J. Anderson ran for three touchdowns, one of which was set up by Omar Bolden's 76-yard kickoff return, Connor Barth kicked four field goals and cornerback Tony Carter capped a dominant day by the defense with a fumble return for a score.

''When you get all three phases of the game playing like we did today, we can be a dangerous team to stop,'' said Anderson, who has eight TD runs to Manning's five TD throws since Thanksgiving.

Anderson gained 87 yards on just 13 carries for a 6.7-yard average and finished the season with 1,173 yards from scrimmage despite not winning the starting tailback job until midseason.

''C.J.'s been great,'' Manning said. ''He's been really solid and good in the passing game, good in the pass protection and made a lot of big runs. The line's done a good job of springing him. It was good to get Ronnie (Hillman) back today. Those two guys can be a pretty good little 1-2 punch.''

Hillman returned to the Broncos' backfield for the first time since spraining his left foot Nov. 9 and added 56 yards on 15 rushes.

Other takeaways from Denver's seventh straight win over the Raiders (3-13), who lost their 11th straight road game and missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season:

WELCOME BREAK: The Broncos had their bye way back in September and sorely need the extra week. Not only did Manning acknowledge he was ''a little beat up physically,'' but safety David Bruton and left guard Orlando Franklin sustained concussions.

Demaryius Thomas (hand) and Emmanuel Sanders (back), who combined for 212 catches for 3,023 yards and 20 touchdowns, are ailing. And the bye week will allow top tackler Brandon Marshall (foot) and Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward (neck) more time to get healthy.

''I feel like all the other players in the locker room, guys that have played 17 weeks of physical football,'' Manning said. ''I think this bye week is coming at a good time.''

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Broncos have found some spark in their return game after switching from Isaiah Burse to Wes Welker on punts and from Bubba Caldwell to Bolden on kickoffs.

Welker had punt returns of 18 and 19 yards and Bolden's 76-yard kickoff return set up a score Sunday.

''I enjoy getting the ball in my hands,'' said Welker, whose 49 catches for 464 yards and two TDs represented his worst statistical season since 2005 in Miami.

SAFETY INJURED: Bruton was briefly hospitalized after being carted off the field following an illegal hit by Denico Autry while covering a punt return late in the game. The team said Bruton sustained a concussion but was cleared of any other injuries.

As Bruton lay on the field receiving medical attention, his teammates and coach John Fox surrounded him. Before Bruton was carted off, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr patted him on the chest. Bruton waved to the crowd as he disappeared into the tunnel, drawing a large ovation.

WELCOME BACK?: The Raiders may be in the market for a new coach and starting free safety. Or maybe not. Interim coach Tony Sparano is hoping to return in 2015, and one of his biggest supporters is 38-year-old Charles Woodson.

''I think the guys on this team, they actually believe in Coach Sparano,'' Woodson said. ''He did a good job with the guys on a week-to-week basis, trying to get us ready for games, having us prepared as a team. I think he's made a good case.''

Woodson thinks he made a good case to return for another season himself.

Notes: Brock Osweiler threw the first TD pass of his three-year career, a 1-yarder to Virgil Green, a first for the fourth-year tight end. ... Thomas broke Rod Smith's franchise record with 1,619 yards receiving.


AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed.


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