CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were too much for the Carolina Panthers.
Manning threw for 310 yards and a touchdown Sunday helping the first-place Broncos (6-3) rout the Panthers 36-14 to win for the fifth time in six games.
"I didn't know what kind of progress I would make physically," Manning said after he missed last season because of injuries.
"I have made some. I continue to have some that I need to make and continue to have to do my rehab. I think we have improved on certain things and part of developing some kind of chemistry.
"This is not a team that has been together for four or five years so we still have some things that we can do better. Anytime that you can learn a little bit about each other, make some progress, and win some games, that is a good thing. But, we still need to get better, especially down this home stretch."
The Broncos have scored at least 31 points in their past five wins.
After the game, players gave coach John Fox a game ball after winning against the team he coached for nine seasons from 2002-2010.
"There were a lot of motivating factors to help us win this game, and Coach Fox was the biggest one," Von Miller said.
Manning threw his 420th touchdown pass to move into a tie for second place on the NFL's list with his childhood hero Dan Marino. He trails only Brett Favre (508).
"I have never felt comfortable kind of being mentioned with him," Manning said.
Manning had plenty of help from his teammates.
Linebacker Miller harassed Cam Newton all day and Trindon Holliday returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown as for the Broncos (6-3).
The Broncos sacked Newton seven times, including once for a safety, and Miller pressured him into an interception that Tony Carter returned 40 yards for a score.
Fox spent nine seasons in Carolina before his relationship with owner Jerry Richardson deteriorated when the organization failed to offer him a contract extension.
Fox took the high road after the game.
"You just feel good to win," Fox said. "You put a lot into these things. It is seven days of hard work and countless hours. It's all for naught if you don't win."
Miller was all over the field and finished with a sack, forced fumble and four tackles for a loss.
"We want to be feared and respected for a relentless pursuit for the ball," Miller said.
Denver's defense pressured Newton all day, forcing him to make quick decisions that often resulted in mistakes.
"We changed up our protections, did a couple of things differently and they were still able to break through," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
After a strong start, Newton finished 21 of 36 for 241 yards with two touchdown passes to tight end Greg Olsen. He threw two interceptions.
By the end of the game Newton looked tired, discouraged and a little beat up.
Despite spending much of the day on his back, Newton wouldn't blame his offensive line.
"This is the same offensive line that did an excellent job a lot of times today, so I'm not thrashing them." Newton said. "... I think personally I have to do a better job of getting the football out, getting it to my outlets."
Miller, selected No. 2 in the 2011 draft, one spot behind Newton, was a disruptive force right from the start. He sacked Newton on the second series and celebrated by imitating Newton's Superman routine, pretending to rip open his shirt.
The Panthers (2-7) appeared ready to give the Broncos a challenge early while playing in all-black uniforms, jumping to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Newton to Olsen.
But it was all Broncos after that as they scored 29 straight points.
After a slow start, Manning started to pick apart Carolina's defense.
He had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley. With the game tied at 7, Holliday put the Broncos ahead with a nifty punt return for a touchdown.
Matt Prater made it 17-7 on a 53-yard field goal.
Early in the third quarter, Charles Johnson sacked Manning and forced a fumble that Greg Hardy recovered.
But on the next play, Miller grabbed Newton's ankle in the backfield as he was trying to throw and Carter stepped in front of the pass near the sideline and returned it for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead. Prater added another field goal and Mike Adams sacked Newton for a safety to make it 29-7.
"I should have thrown it out of bounds," Newton said. "I have to be more mature than that. It's better to be second-and-10 than have a pick-six."
NOTES: Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil left the game with a shoulder injury in the second quarter and did not return. ... Panthers TE Greg Olsen posted his first career 100-yard receiving game in six seasons. ... The Panthers have not won back-to-back games this season under Rivera.
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