That made for quite a nice homecoming for Denver's second-year back.
Anderson gave the Broncos the lead for good by breaking at least three tackles on a 51-yard catch-and-run and Manning threw touchdown passes on the next four drives to give Denver a 41-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
"Just a truly incredible effort play on his part to take a potentially catch for a loss and turn it into a 50-something-yard touchdown," Manning said. "That really gave us a spark."
It was part of a huge day for Anderson, who grew up in nearby Vallejo and played college ball at California. Anderson came into the game with just 116 yards from scrimmage but had 73 receiving and 90 rushing to help the Broncos (7-2) send the Raiders (0-9) to their 15th straight loss.
"I love playing at home," Anderson said. "I love road games and then I love playing at home, so it's like have my ice cream and my cake at the same time. I feel good about that."
Derek Carr threw for 192 yards on 47 attempts, most of the production coming on a meaningless touchdown drive in the closing minutes. He also had two interceptions. The running game was limited to 30 yards on 15 carries and the defense was completely overmatched after a spirited start.
"They're looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow and it hasn't been there," Sparano said. "We have to stay the course and believe in the things that we're doing and we're getting better as a football team. I know this is not an indicator of that."
Here are some other takeaways from the game:
GAME-CHANGING PLAY: Anderson's big play happened on a third-and-8 late in the first half with the Raiders on top 10-6. He caught the short pass and immediately broke a tackle from Miles Burris. He ran down the sideline, breaking tackles by Khalil Mack and Charles Woodson before weaving through the defense for the touchdown.
"He makes a heck of an individual effort," teammate Wes Welker said. "It was kind of the spark that we needed to get going."
BLOOPER REEL: The game — and season — could be summed up in one play for Oakland early in the third quarter. Carr was under pressure when he dumped off a pass to offensive lineman Khalif Barnes. Barnes looked shocked when he caught the ball, but ran with it despite an ineligible receiver. Malik Jackson knocked the ball loose and Chris Harris Jr. recovered at the 18. Carr said he expected running back Darren McFadden to be in that spot so he threw the ball without looking.
"Obviously, where we're at right now, it just looks ugly, but it's just one of those things that happens," Carr said.
TURNAROUND: Manning got off to a shaky start, throwing two early interceptions and having two drives stall in the red zone for field goals instead of touchdowns. It ended with a typically strong performance as he threw for 340 yards and five touchdowns. That extended Manning's record to 15 straight games with at least two TD passes and he has thrown one in 48 in a row, moving past Johnny Unitas for third place all-time.
"Certainly I have a great appreciation for the history of the game and those type of things, but I thought the most important thing was to get a win today," Manning said.
SHORT STUFF: James Jones led the Raiders with eight catches — although it might have been the least productive eight-catch day ever for a receiver. After gaining 10 yards on his first catch, Jones was limited to 10 more on his final seven receptions. The 20 yards receiving were the fewest ever by a wide receiver with at least eight catches.
TOUCHDOWN THOMAS: Julius Thomas' two touchdowns have him 12 already this season. That ties Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Frank Clarke and Bill Groman for the most ever after nine games. Thomas also became the first tight end with at least 12 TD catches in consecutive seasons.
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