- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOUSTON -- With a 30-13 lead against the Houston Texans, 5 minutes,16 seconds left in the game, the ball on the Denver Broncos' 44 yard line and 50 passing touchdowns for the season, head coach John Fox said three words into the headset.
"Coach Fox said 'go play ball,' that's what he told [offensive coordinator] Adam [Gase] and that's what Adam told me," said quarterback Peyton Manning.
And with that Manning and the Broncos offense went about the business of chasing down history. Running back Knowshon Moreno, who finished with 76 yards rushing in the game for his first 1,000-yard season, gained four yards on the first play of the drive.
Manning threw two incompletions, one that included a pass interference penalty on Houston Texans' safety Eddie Pleasant that moved the ball to the Houston 25-yard line. And, on first-and-10, with tight end Julius Thomas lined up wide right as the only receiver, Manning had the 1-on-1 matchup he wanted with the Texans cornerbacks matching up wide left with the Broncos wide receivers.
Thomas simply ran by linebacker Darryl Sharpton and Manning lofted the 51st touchdown pass of the season into Thomas' hands. Thomas, with the exuberance of youth perhaps, dropped the football to celebrate, letting a remember-when item simply roll into the grass.
"It wouldn't have surprised me if Julius wouldn't have went handed it to some babe in the stands trying to get her phone number in exchange for the ball," Manning said with a smile. "That would be right up Julius' alley, that is pretty in line with his thinking sometimes. Great catch, great route by him."
Manning tied the previous record, set by Tom Brady in 2007, with a 20-yard scoring pass to Eric Decker just 2:39 before the record-setter. Manning called Decker's catch on the left sideline of the endzone "awesome, one of the best ones of the year in my opinion."
Manning also said Gase has "been awesome all year" as the team's play-caller. He also paid homage to Hall of Famer Dan Marino as well as Brady following the game and said he believed his record may be short-lived in today's NFL.
On Marino, Manning said; "I still think Dan Marino's record in '84 is extremely special. Certainly the game has changed since then and for him to throw 48 touchdowns in '84 is still one of the most remarkable ones. It lasted so long and he was one of my favorite quarterbacks growing up so to break his record was really special. And Tom in 2007 was nothing short of phenomenal."
On the record Manning said; "It may be only temporary. I personally think all season records are going down, especially if they go to 18 games and there won't be an asterisk. Brady will probably break it again next year if not the year after, so we'll enjoy it … Hopefully the Hall of Fame will send the ball back when somebody throws for more."
And on setting the record on a day when the Broncos also clinched the AFC West title as well as a first-round bye, Manning said; "Losing record and you break an individual record and you're just throwing a lot and getting some yards and you don't have a chance to make the postseason, that doesn't mean a whole lot."