KUSA - With just a 16-13 lead going into the fourth quarter Sunday, Peyton Manning quickly put on another record showing as the Denver Broncos quarterback set the NFL's single-season mark for touchdown passes to lead the Broncos to a 37-13 win at Houston.
Manning threw three TD passes in the fourth quarter - two TD passes to Eric Decker and another to Julius Thomas - to break the NFL record of 50 set by New England's Tom Brady in the 2007 season.
"Brady will probably break it again next year if not the year after," Manning said. "We'll enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Hopefully the hall of fame will just send the ball back when somebody throws for more."
Manning, who finished the game 32-of-51 passing for 400 yards and four touchdowns, had 47 TD passes coming into the game.
With the win and the Chiefs' loss to Indianapolis, the Broncos (12-3) clinched the AFC West title and no worse than a No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
"Peyton is very humble," Broncos coach John Fox said. "Best news he said he got today was we won the AFC West and got a first-round bye."
With New England (11-4) beating Baltimore 41-7 on Sunday, the Broncos keep their one-game lead on the Patriots. If Denver wins next week at Oakland, the Broncos keep the top seed. If Denver loses and the Patriots beat Buffalo, New England would take the top spot.
The Patriots' game was flexed by the league to an afternoon kickoff, so Denver won't know where it stands heading into its 2:25 p.m. kickoff at Oakland.
It's the third consecutive AFC West championship for the Broncos, who will have a first-round bye and will host a divisional game Jan. 11 or 12. It's the first time in team history Denver has won the division three consecutive seasons.
For as strong as the Broncos played in the first half Sunday, they started slow in the third quarter with three consecutive three-and-outs. The Texans pulled within 16-13 between those drives on Matt Schaub's 15-yard pass to Keshawn Martin.
The Broncos punted on all four possessions in the third quarter, but finally got a spark after Mike Adams' interception at the Texans' 20-yard line. Fox and Manning called the interception the turning point of the game.
"We were in a little rut on both sides of the ball," Manning said.
Said Adams: "I was able to jump it. I read the quarterback's eyes. ... Things weren't going the way we wanted to at that moment, so for me to make a big play was huge."
Denver scored two plays later on Manning's 10-yard pass to Decker - No. 49 for Manning and a 23-13 lead.
After the Broncos' defense sent the Texans to another three-and-out, Manning and Decker hooked up again eight plays later on a 20-yarder to tie the Brady's record and stake a 30-13 lead with seven minutes left in the game. That catch also gave Decker 10 TD receptions this season, and he is the fifth Bronco with 10 or more TD, which is another NFL record.
"It's special to be a part of," Decker said. "You never dream to be a part of a team like this. What he went through a couple years with surgeries and bouncing back. It's a testament to his character and how he works."
Manning's record-breaker came on their next possession as the 37-year-old Manning found Thomas on a 25-yard scoring play. Thomas said he didn't know it was the record-breaker.
"It wouldn't have surprised me if Julius handed it to some babe in the stands and tried get her phone number in exchange for the ball," Manning joked.
Said Houston interim coach Wade Phillips: "The last one, I was surprised that they threw it deep late in the game, but that's part of football."
Manning was mobbed by his teammates and coaches.
"That is certainly a moment I'll remember because of the team bonding that went on during that time," Manning said of the celebration. "I saw Julius score the touchdown and it put a smile on my face."
Manning had 296 yards passing in the first half (23-of-32), but just the one touchdown pass.
Manning got No. 48 on a 36-yard floater to Demaryius Thomas, who ran under the ball at the goal line to take a 10-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter. During the quarter Manning notched his first 5,000-yard passing season. It's the seventh 5,000-yard season in NFL history.
Manning needs 265 yards at Oakland to tie the single-season record of 5,476 yards set by Drew Brees in 2011.
The Broncos had to start their first drive on the 8-yard line after a holding call negated Trindon Holliday's 58-yard punt return. Manning threw passes on the first six plays, then got a 31-yard run from Moreno. But the drive stalled after 11 plays, and Denver settled for Matt Prater's 32-yard field goal to get on the board first.
Denver held Houston to three-and-out on its first two drives. But after Von Miller injured his knee in the second drive, the Texans were able to keep their third drive going and tied the game at 3-3 on a 45-yard field goal.
Miller went to the locker room and did not return to the game.
After the defense held Houston to another three-and-out, the Broncos got the ball back with 26 seconds and moved 43 yards to set up Prater's third field goal of the game on the final play of the half.
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