San Francisco 49ers

Halftime: Manning, Broncos winning air war with 49ers

DENVER -- Peyton Manning is now ahead of Brett Favre in all-time touchdown passes. And it took him less than a half to grab the record.

The Broncos quarterback toyed with a patchwork 49ers defense throughout the first half, including on a 39-yard pass to Wes Welker, the 508th touchdown strike of Manning's career. On the play, Manning faked a short pass, got 49ers safety Eric Reid to bite, then floated a pass to Welker, who was streaking down the sideline.

At that point Manning was 7-7 for 111 yards.

Manning got No. 507 on a short pass to Emmanuel Sanders. The record-breaking throw came at the end of the half and went to Demaryius Thomas in front of cornerback Tramaine Brock.

Manning had no issues carving up the 49ers defense on his first drive. In typical Manning fashion, he found favorable matchups, including one in which Thomas, Denver's top receiver, was matched against inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite on a crossing route.

It picked up 32 yards and immediately put Denver in scoring position. Facing third and goal, Manning connected with Sanders, who was wide up in the end zone after the man trailing the receiver, cornerback Donate Johnson was taken out by referee John Parry.

The 49ers, meanwhile, seemed to lean toward to an up-tempo passing game at the start of the contest, then doubled down on that strategy when they fell behind by 14 points. The team has used four and five receivers throughout the half, and fullback Bruce Miller has played scant snaps so far.

The strategy worked on the team's final drive of the period, which went 80 yards in seven plays.

It included three passes for 45 yards to wideout Stevie Johnson, who scored a four-yard touchdown with a catch in the back of the end zone. Johnson leads all receivers with four catches for 76 yards.

An earlier drive at the start of the second quarter also was promising.

Following a sack deep in his own territory, Kaepernick found Johnson for a 31-yard gain. The 49ers quarterback also connected with Brandon Lloyd, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree on the drive as the team routinely used four wide receivers instead of a tight end or a fullback.

Kaepernick seemed to have a sure touchdown on third and goal, but the pass was dropped by Anquan Boldin, one of four in the half for the 49ers.

Manning is 13 of 16 for 177 yards with three touchdowns at the half. Kaepernick is 13 of 21 for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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