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Manning throws for 305 yards, Broncos top Saints

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Manning throws for 305 yards, Broncos top Saints

DENVER (AP) A dinged-up right thumb wasn't enough to throw Peyton Manning off his game, and to no one's surprise, neither was the New Orleans Saints' defense.

Despite banging his throwing thumb on an opponent's helmet in the second quarter Sunday night, Manning passed for 305 yards and three scores, led a pair of 90-plus-yard touchdown drives and easily outplayed Drew Brees to lead the Denver Broncos to a 34-14 victory over the Saints.

Manning surpassed the 300-yard mark for the fifth straight time to match his personal best and set a franchise record for Denver (4-3). He completed 22 of 30 throws for a passer rating of 138.9. Willis McGahee ran for 122 yards and a score for the Broncos, who won two in a row for the first time this season and took sole possession of first place in the AFC West.

The Broncos gained 530 yards - a season high - against the NFL's worst defense, which came in allowing more yards (2,793) over the first six games of a season than any team since 1950.

New Orleans (2-5) was hoping to get a boost from the return of linebackers-turned-interim head coach Joe Vitt from his six-game suspension for the team's bounty scandal. All he can do is stand on the sidelines, though, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma - another Saint implicated in the scandal - returned to the starting lineup, but he couldn't plug the holes, either.

The Broncos' defense, meanwhile, held Brees and the league's top passing offense to 213 yards and two scores, the second marking the first points Denver has allowed in the fourth quarter since opening week. Brees threw for both scores to extend his record to 50 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. He also reached 301 career touchdown passes to climb past John Elway for sixth on the career list.

Small consolation on a night in which the Broncos defense looked almost as good as its offense.

Linebacker Wesley Woodyard did extensive damage, finishing with 13 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception, when Vitt chose to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Denver 47 early in the second quarter with the game tied at 7.

Manning answered with a 56-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown, capped on a 13-yard pass to Eric Decker, who was all alone when Jabari Greer slipped. Decker celebrated by spiking the ball a good 10 rows into the stands.

A bit later, Manning dinged his thumb while completing a 23-yard pass to Decker, leaving a trace of blood across the quarterback's thumb. Manning handed off the next four plays and the Broncos settled for a field goal before halftime. But when Manning returned for the third quarter, he warmed up with no trouble and showed no signs of injury.

He then answered any questions by going 4 for 4 to start the third quarter, moving the Broncos 93 yards and capping it with a 1-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas for a 24-7 lead.

Thomas finished with seven catches for 137 yards. Decker also caught a 2-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for a 31-7 lead. He finished with 43 yards receiving.

Denver's first scoring drive opened at the 2 and began with four straight runs by McGahee for gains of 4, 12, 7 and 3. That set up play action and Manning hit Thomas for 41 yards. Five plays later, Manning dropped back, peaked through the crowded line and somehow picked out McGahee among all the big men clogging things up. That little flip screen was good for 14 yards and set up McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

he win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

Tarik's 3 stars: Ovechkin said Caps would even the series, on Thursday, he helped them do it

COLUMBUS — Alex Ovechkin confidently predicted earlier this week that the Caps were going to win twice at Nationwide Arena and take their first round series back to Washington knotted, two games apiece.

And, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what Ovechkin made sure his team did.

No. 8, who was playing in his franchise-record 101st playoff game, scored his third goal of the playoffs early in the final frame and the Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Game 4.

Tarik’s Three Stars of Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4

1. Tom Wilson, Capitals

After a slow (and penalty-plagued) start to this series, Wilson has become a force. Yes, he took another minor, but the good is far outweighing the bad these days. Big Willy recorded a goal, an assist and a team-high seven shots. 

2. Braden Holtby, Capitals

Holtby had his best game in, well, a long time. He stopped 23 shots, including all eight he saw in a contentious second period.

The goal he surrendered was a nearly unstoppable tip-in by Boone Jenner.

3. T.J. Oshie, Capitals

Osh just plays the game so dang hard.

So it should come as no surprise that he delivered in his team’s biggest game of the season to this point. Oshie, of course, scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the second period.

It was No. 77’s second tally of the series. He also directed six shots at the Columbus net and made a couple of hits...all from a player who's been fighting through injury the past few weeks.

Agree? Disagree?

Let us know what you think in the comments.