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Manning's big day lifts Denver

Updated: 2013-12-24 08:55
By Associated Press in Houston ( China Daily)

QB breaks Brady's record for TD passes in a season with his 51st as the Broncos clinch AFC West

Not many players can overshadow a wild weekend of NFL playoff possibilities. Peyton Manning can. And did.

Manning broke Tom Brady's single-season record with his 51st touchdown pass, the last of four on Sunday in Denver's 37-13 win at Houston. New England's Brady set the mark in 2007, beating Manning's previous record of 49 in 2004 with Indianapolis.

"I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be a part of NFL history, even though it may be temporary," Manning said after the Broncos (12-3) clinched the AFC West and a first-round playoff bye. "So I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts, and hopefully the Hall of Fame will send the ball back once somebody throws for more."

Manning might have seemed an outsider to re-establish the standard considering the neck injuries that required surgery and forced him to sit out the 2011 season with the Colts. But he has been sensational in Denver and has more records in sight with one game remaining.

He has a career-high 5,211 yards passing this season, third in NFL history and 265 yards shy of the 5,476 yards Drew Brees gained in 2011.

"I am grateful for people that helped me along the way and I have certainly put some time and work into it," Manning said when asked if he could have predicted grabbing back the record. "But no, it would be hard to say you could have imagined this at that point, so we are excited about the win and hopefully we can keep it going next week."

Manning threw for 400 yards, with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The 51st was on a 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Just 2 minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.

He entered the game with 47 and his first touchdown came on a 36-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter. The second was a 10-yard throw to Decker earlier in the fourth period.

Meanwhile, the loss extended Houston's franchise-record skid to 13 games. Should it lose to Tennessee next week, the Texans (2-13) will own the first pick in the draft.

The team also needs a win in the season finale at Tennessee to avoid matching its franchise-record worst record of 2-14 from 2005.

It is a stunning downfall for a side that won the AFC South the past two seasons and went 12-4 last year before injuries and poor play led to coach Gary Kubiak's firing and dropped Houston to the NFL's worst mark in 2013.

"Nobody's throwing in the towel," receiver Andre Johnson said. "(We are) just going to keep playing ... we are going to keep fighting, and hopefully it will work out for us on Sunday."

Matt Schaub started for the first time since Oct 13 in place of an injured Case Keenum. He finished with 176 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions for the Texans.

Manning's big day lifts Denver

Schaub, benched for Keenum after a terrible six games, admitted he has thought about the possibility Sunday was his last time playing in Houston.

"It has definitely crossed my mind," he said. "I didn't want to think too far ahead, but I've played this game long enough to know how things work."

The Broncos already had a spot in the playoffs, but their victory, combined with Kansas City's loss to Indianapolis, gave them the division crown. They could also have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but New England won its game at Baltimore to keep that race alive.

The Broncos couldn't do anything offensively in the third quarter, gaining just 38 yards, and had to punt on each of their four possessions. Their defense helped them out after that, with Mike Adams intercepting Schaub at the Houston 28.

Manning wasted no time making Houston pay, and found Decker two plays later for the touchdown that extended the lead to 23-13.

It was all Broncos after that, with Manning grabbing the record with two more touchdown passes.

"Peyton Manning found a way there at the end," Houston defensive end Antonio Smith said. "In a game like this ... three points are never going to win you the game. You only have so long before they start making plays themselves."

Decker led the Broncos with 10 receptions for 131 yards, and Demaryius Thomas had eight catches for 123 yards. Wes Welker missed his second straight game after sustaining his second concussion in four weeks on Dec 8.

Schaub found Keshawn Martin on a 15-yard touchdown pass to get Houston within 16-13 early in the third quarter. Johnson finished with four catches for 63 yards.

 Manning's big day lifts Denver

Denver Bronco Peyton Manning is hit by Houston Texan Joe Mays as he throws during the third quarter of their game on Sunday in Houston. Manning threw his 51st touchdown pass of the season to set a new NFL record. David J. Phillip / Associated Press

(China Daily 12/24/2013 page24)