BALTIMORE — When it comes to handing off, Peyton Manning is no Tim Tebow.
But he's getting there.
In a 34-17 win against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, the Broncos amassed 45 carries — the most ever in a game quarterbacked by Manning, who is in his 15th NFL season.
Besides Knowshon Moreno's 22 carries, Denver gave 14 attempts to rookie Ronnie Hillman and seven to newcomer Jacob Hester, who scored the game's first touchdown in his first game with the Broncos.
"It's good to be in the blue-and-orange," said Hester, who played four previous seasons for the powder-blue San Diego Chargers. "Anytime you're active, they expect you to do something. I didn't want to just sit back and watch."
Lowlight. Easily the worst part of the Broncos' victory was their defensive play in the fourth quarter when, with a 31-3 lead, they clearly let up and allowed two touchdown passes from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta.
"We didn't close the game the way we wanted to defensively," Bronco middle linebacker Keith Brooking said. "We've talked about that the last three or four weeks, and it's continued to be a problem. I do know this: In my experience, you've got to learn to close a ballgame out and step on their throat, so to speak. If not, you can get exposed in the playoffs."
Game ball to Bowlen. Now that their skid has been snapped, the Broncos did admit they were aware of their team's abysmal history against the Ravens. The Broncos were 0-5 against the Ravens before Sunday. Of course, before Sunday, the Broncos never brought Manning along with them.
To mark the occasion, Broncos coach John Fox awarded the game ball to owner Pat Bowlen.
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"This one was right at the top," Fox said when asked to rank his team's nine consecutive wins. "Pat Bowlen has owned the team for 29 years and has averaged 10 wins a season over that 29-year period, but it's the first time he's won in this building. I was proud to see that for him."
Decker is dealing. There was a four-game stretch from the 36-14 win at Carolina on Nov. 11 through the 31-23 win against Tampa Bay three games later that Eric Decker combined for just 10 catches and 119 yards.
But in the last two games, Decker has 16 catches for 221 yards.
No grief. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was asked if he said anything to Chris Harris after Flacco tackled him while crossing the goal line on a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"No, with what happened to me years ago, I don't mess with a guy," Bailey said. "I know what it is to run 100 yards."
Bailey was caught just short of the goal line by Patriots tight end Ben Watson on one of the biggest interceptions in franchise history. Bailey intercepted Tom Brady in the Broncos' end zone in the AFC divisional round in the 2005 season and went 100 yards to the Patriots' 5-yard line.
Shut it down. Broncos defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who played four seasons with the Ravens, was ready for Flacco to try a quarterback sneak play on a third-and-1 during the Ravens' first possession of the game.
Bannan plowed into Flacco and knocked the ball free, a fumble Broncos safety Rahim Moore recovered at the Denver 47-yard line.
"I had a feeling he was going to sneak it, and I slipped to the center and got ahold of Joe Flacco," Bannan said.
Injuries. The Broncos reported no major injuries after the game, but Decker briefly had one of the team doctors loosening up his back late in the contest. Guard Chris Kuper (ankle), however, was inactive after being limited in practice all week.
Boldin's streak snapped. Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was held without a catch for the first time since Oct. 23, 2005, snapping a streak of 106 consecutive games, the NFL's fifth longest for active players.
Broncos control own destiny
New England's loss Sunday night to San Francisco moved Denver into the No. 2 position in the AFC and in control to receive a bye in the wild-card playoff round.
• If the Broncos win their final two games, they are guaranteed no worse than the No. 2 seed.
• The Broncos would get the top seed by winning their last two games and Houston losing its final two games.