Dec. 23, 2013
By Gray Caldwell
Editor, DenverBroncos.com / Team Media
HOUSTON -- Break out the record books.
Peyton Manning has made history yet again, setting a new NFL record with his 51st touchdown pass this season.
"That was a spectacular throw," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said after the game. "But the other 50 were, too. I'm thrilled for him and the work he's put in. There's not anybody more deserving than Peyton for what he's put in the last couple years to get that record."
The 25-yard strike to tight end Julius Thomas brought hugs and high fives from the entire Broncos sideline -- and a standing ovation from the Broncos fans at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
"It was very special. Very rarely during an NFL game do you get to have a moment like that," Manning said of the reaction of his teammates and the crowd. "Having some of my teammates come onto the field, having some defensive players coming out and high-fiving me - and I was telling them thanks back, thanks for all of their help. That is certainly a moment I'll remember. Lots of Broncos fans in the stands today. That was pretty unique as well. Certainly a moment I'll remember because of just the team bonding that went on during that time.
Manning tied the previous NFL record -- Tom Brady's 50 touchdown passes in 2007 -- on a 20-yard throw to wide receiver Eric Decker earlier in the fourth quarter.
Thomas said he wasn't even aware that he caught the record-breaker at the time. "I think I dropped the ball so fast, doing my usual thing, and 'Deck' picked it up. I was like, `Why did Deck pick that ball up so fast?'" Thomas laughed. "I'm not paying any attention, I come back to the sidelines, I'm sitting down on the bench and somebody was like, `That was the one!' I said, `Ugh. Maybe I shouldn't have just dropped it so carelessly. I should've kept it!'"
When Manning heard that Thomas was unaware of the significance of the football he caught, he was quick to throw a joke the tight end's way.
"Yeah - it wouldn't have surprised me if Julius would have handed it to some babe up in the stands and tried to get her phone number in exchange for the ball," he laughed.
The path to the new league mark began in Week 1, when Manning tied a single-game league record with seven touchdown passes in the NFL Kickoff Game against the Baltimore Ravens.
From there, he threw 13 more touchdowns before his first interception of the season, setting a new NFL record for most touchdown passes before a pick (20).
Manning now has eight four-touchdown games this year, breaking his own NFL record, which he previously set in Week 14.
Head Coach John Fox said Manning's reaction to the history he made Sunday was "very humble."
"He said the best news he heard in there was that we'd won the AFC West for a third straight year and we have a first-round bye," Fox said. "We still have to play for home field but he's - number one is team success and he's gotten us to 12-3 and 13-3 a year ago. That's pretty good on his part."