Peyton Manning says his season record of 51 touchdowns will be short-lived, suggesting New England Patriot Tom Brady will take it back soon enough. Or, for that matter, any number of others could break it should NFL owners expand the season to 18 games.
Perhaps he is just being pragmatic. Maybe he is just being modest.
“If it does go to 18 games, I think that is a practical assessment,” said tight end Julius Thomas, who caught the record-breaker in the Denver Broncos ‘37-13 win at Houston at the weekend.
“Those two extra games would give a quarterback two additional opportunities to go out there and put more touchdowns on the board.
“That will skew a lot of records. But you know he’s also a modest person. That’s who he is. It’s pretty remarkable to throw 51 touchdowns. I believe records are meant to be broken and most are broken. But that’s one that could stand for a while.”
It will stand for a long time, suggested Eric Decker, who retrieved the record-breaking memento when Thomas nonchalantly dropped it, unaware of the ball’s emotional or even economic value.
“Of course he’s being modest,” Decker said. “Fifty-plus touchdowns in a season, you’ve got to do something very, very special. (Dan) Marino had it for such a long time and then it went back and forth for a while. But with the game how it is now, it’s more of an offensive game and you have more opportunities to maybe do something like this.”
Manning began the season by becoming the first quarterback since 1969 to throw for seven touchdowns in a game, one of eight games this season in which he’s thrown for four or more.
He has thrown a dozen touchdown passes to Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas and ten each to Decker and Wes Welker.
After breaking Brady’s single-season touchdown record of 50 on Sunday, Manning is 266 yards from surpassing Drew Brees’ single-season mark for yards passing. The Broncos are 18 points shy of setting a single-season record and 28 from becoming the league’s first 600-point team.
They are already the first team in NFL history with five players with at least ten touchdowns; running back Knowshon Moreno has ten touchdown runs and two touchdown catches. Nobody else has had four players with double-digit touchdowns.
It has reached the point where it is expected that the Broncos will put up gaudy numbers each week, and when they do not march right down the field, fans wonder what is wrong.
“Yeah, we talked about that earlier in the season. If we punt, man, we would get booed,” Julius Thomas said. “But it speaks to what we’ve done.”
Maybe that is why he did not realise he had the record-holder in his hands when he caught No. 51 on Sunday and let it go instead of holding it. Decker picked up the ball and tucked it in the side of his jersey, where it remained as he walked off the field.
“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,” Manning joked. “That would be right up Julius’s alley.”
Thomas said: “If it was the right girl, maybe I’d think about it.”
Decker, who was pranked by Manning in the offseason, when the quarterback invited him for a weekend camp at Duke University and tricked him into thinking he had to pay thousands of dollars for doing so, saw an opportunity for payback.
“I was going to take (the ball) home. That’s an item that is going to go for a lot,” Decker said. “He got me at Duke (and) I figured … I could hold the ball ransom and see what I could get out of it. But I had to give it to him, and that was such a cool thing to be a part of.”
Manning can make it more difficult to break his touchdown record when the Broncos visit Oakland on Sunday.
As the Broncos need to win to stay ahead of New England in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and the Patriots kick off against Buffalo at the same time, Manning, and not his backup, Brock Osweiler, will be under centre fine-tuning things.