Broncos 37

(12-3, 5-2 away)

Texans 13

(2-13, 1-7 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 22, 2013

NRG Stadium, Houston, TX 

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 3 13 0 2137
HOU 3 3 7 013

Top Performers

Passing: P. Manning (DEN) - 400 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: K. Moreno (DEN) - 11 CAR, 76 YDS

Receiving: E. Decker (DEN) - 10 REC, 131 YDS, 2 TD

Peyton Manning sets TD mark as Broncos clinch AFC West

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Peyton Manning had to prepare for a 2-point conversion and couldn't celebrate when he set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season in 2004.

On Sunday, when Denver's quarterback regained the record against the Houston Texans, he was able to soak in the historic moment.

"It was very special," he said. "Very rarely during an NFL game do you get to have a moment like that."

Manning regained his record with 51 when he threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, including three in the fourth quarter to give Denver its third straight AFC West title. He surpassed the 50 TD passes Tom Brady threw in 2007 and led the Broncos (12-3) to a 37-13 win over the Texans (2-13) that extended Houston's franchise-record skid to 13 games.

Manning did it on a 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Just 2½ minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.

Manning figures Brady will overtake him again one day, especially if the NFL moves to an 18-game regular season.

"I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be a part of NFL history, even though it may be temporary," he said. "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."

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.

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.

"This only means something because it helped our team win games and we won the division today in a competitive AFC West," Manning said. "That's a good thing."

Manning had previously established the record by throwing 49 touchdown passes in 2004.

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

"The guy is a great quarterback, obviously," Houston interim coach Wade Phillips said. "The last one, I was surprised that they threw it deep late in the game, but that's part of football."

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.

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.

"I thought the turning point was the Mike Adams interception," Denver coach John Fox said.

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

Manning made the record-setting throw to Julius Thomas and walked toward the end zone, where his teammates patted him on the head. He then took off his helmet and walking to the sideline and pumped his fist once. His teammates came out to greet him and he gave dozens of high-fives as he grinned and walked to the bench.

Decker picked up the ball after Thomas dropped it after the touchdown and tucked it in the side of his jersey, where it remained as he walked off the field.

Manning laughed when asked about Thomas not holding onto the ball after the score.

"It wouldn't have surprised me if Julius would have went and handed it to some babe up in the stands, trying to get her phone number in exchange for the ball," he joked. "That would be right up Julius' alley."

Thomas didn't realize his reception set the record when he caught it.

"I came back to the sidelines and I'm sitting down on the bench and somebody said: 'That was the one,' " he said. "Maybe I shouldn't have dropped it so carelessly, I should have kept it."

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.

Andre Johnson finished with four catches for 63 yards. He has 103 catches this season to reach 100 for the fifth time in his career, tying an NFL record for most seasons with at least that many receptions.

Johnson entered the game needing one catch to reach the mark held by Welker. He did it on a 33-yard reception in the first quarter.

Manning's TD pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of the second quarter put Denver up 10-3. Houston used a 35-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-6 after a 51-yard punt return by Martin.

Matt Prater made field goals of 25 and 44 yards to extend Denver's lead to 16-6 at halftime.

Game notes

The Broncos lost star linebacker Von Miller to a knee injury in the first quarter, and Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph went out with a foot injury in the second quarter and didn't return. Neither coach had updates on the injuries after the game. ... Houston TE Ryan Griffin had a career-high 66 yards receiving.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2514
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays7066
Total Yards511240
Yards per play7.33.6
Total Drives1514
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-31-2
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

denFG8:53Matt Prater 32 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 12 plays, 78 yds, 4:38
houFG2:06Randy Bullock 45 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 47 yds, 3:04
denTD15:00Demaryius Thomas 36 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 64 yds, 2:08
houFG6:09Randy Bullock 35 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 7 plays, 10 yds, 3:45
denFG0:59Matt Prater 25 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 13 plays, 69 yds, 5:10
denFG0:05Matt Prater 44 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 4 plays, 43 yds, 0:26
houTD10:43Keshawn Martin 15 Yard Pass From Matt Schaub (Randy Bullock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 3:14
denTD13:29Eric Decker 10 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 28 yds, 0:45
denTD7:04Eric Decker 20 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 55 yds, 3:03
denTD4:34Julius Thomas 25 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 56 yds, 0:48

Research Notes

Peyton Manning now has 13 games with at least 400 passing yards, one shy of Dan Marino's record.
Three of Peyton Manning's four touchdown passes were thrown at least 15 yards downfield. Manning has thrown eight touchdown passes on such throws in his last four games, after throwing zero in his previous four games. Manning's average touchdown pass traveled 21.8 yards downfield against the Texans. Entering the game, Manning's average touchdown pass traveled 8.0 yards downfield, the 4th-lowest average in the NFL.
Peyton Manning needs 266 yards to pass Drew Brees for the most in a season in NFL history.
Peyton Manning has tied Tom Brady for most TD passes in a season:
With news that Wes Welker will likely miss the last 2 games of the regular season... Welker has played in all but 278 of the Broncos snaps this season, but Peyton Manning has found success without him on the field, completing a higher percentage of passes and posting a higher Total QBR.
Peyton Manning has set the NFL record for TD passes in a season:
The Texans' defense has struggled this season, especially against opposing quarterbacks, where Houston has allowed the 4th-highest Total QBR.
Peyton Manning's 36-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the 2nd quarter was his 7th touchdown pass of at least 35 yards this season, tied with Drew Brees for the most in the NFL. It's Manning's most such touchdown passes in a season since he threw 7 in 2007.

ESPN Stats & Information