Manning went 32 for 37 for 374 yards and put his name in the record books a few more times while outwitting the overmatched Raiders (1-2).
"You see flashes of good things," Manning said. "When we're executing and not making mistakes, we can go the distance. We can go 80 yards, take advantage of a short field."
Manning's 12 touchdown passes are one more than Tom Brady's old record for the first three games, set in 2011. Manning still has yet to throw an interception, which matches a record held by Michael Vick, who also threw 12 touchdowns before his first pick in 2010.
"We get to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks and football players to ever play the game," said tight end Julius Thomas, who caught one of the touchdowns. "He's great. There's no other way to cut it up or slice it."
As much as the numbers, it was Manning's deciphering of the Oakland defense that made jaws drop in this one.
His first touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Eric Decker (eight catches, 133 yards), came after a subtle play-action fake that froze the defense and left Decker uncovered in the back of the end zone.
Manning's targets for the next two touchdowns — Welker and Thomas — didn't have defenders within three steps of them when they caught the passes. Wide open. A sure sign that Manning had diagnosed the defense he was looking at well before the snap and knew exactly where he wanted to go with the ball.
"You see what he can do. I don't even know too many people who can do that in Madden," running back Ronnie Hillman said, referring to the popular video game. "It's pretty cool to have a quarterback like that."
OK, so the evening wasn't perfect. There were the five incompletions, though two of them were flat-out drops and another two hit receivers in the hands, but would have been difficult catches. The Broncos (3-0) settled for three field goals and had to punt once. Rookie Montee Ball lost another fumble. Denver came a field goal short of reaching 40 points for the third straight game.
And Manning's prediction that Chris Clark would be a seamless replacement for injured Ryan Clady as his blindside protector didn't exactly pan out. Lamarr Houston beat Denver's new starting left tackle badly in the third quarter for a sack and strip that halted a drive that had reached the Raiders 13.