Manning, of course, doesn't like talking about the big picture. He said a late-season game at Cleveland in his second year taught him how fickle the business of focusing on big numbers can be. He had an impressive 27-game streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass heading into that game.
"We hadn't thrown one and had a pass play called and they were dropping eight guys and we checked to a run, got the touchdown and the streak ended," Manning said.
The touchdown helped the Colts to a 29-28 win.
"And you don't think twice about" the records, Manning said. "You've got to do your job to get your team into the end zone, whatever that is. That's how I've always approached it."
So, with the caveat that Manning himself doesn't really care, here are six records he and the Broncos can break over the final three games of the season, beginning Thursday night against San Diego:
TOUCHDOWN PASSES: This used to be considered the gold-standard for passers and one of the hardest to break. Dan Marino set it with 48 in 1984 and that held up for 20 seasons until who else? Manning broke it by one in 2004 en route to his second of four MVP awards (That's already a record). Tom Brady then threw for 50 TDs in 2007. Manning stands at 45 with three games left. He has an NFL record seven games with four touchdown passes or more.
PASSING YARDAGE: Another of the biggies. Manning has 4,522 yards and is on pace for 5,565. Drew Brees holds the record with 5,476, set in 2011. Manning is throwing for 347 a game this season and could break the record by throwing for 29 below his average each game. This one is a bit tricky, though, mainly because the Broncos' three remaining opponents San Diego, Houston and Oakland are a combined 12-27. The Broncos will probably try to rest the 16-year veteran if they get way ahead. Working in favor of setting the record, however, is that the Broncos have only a one-game lead over Kansas City in the AFC West and New England for the No. 1 playoff seed, so, at this point, they need to win all the games.
COMPLETIONS, ATTEMPTS, PASSER RATING: All these are stretches, especially if Manning doesn't play out the entire season. Then again, he went 39 for 59 with a 107.8 passer rating last week, and a few more outings like that will definitely put him in the mix. Through 13 games, Manning has 366 completions, leaving him 102 short of Brees' record in 2011; Manning's 539 attempts are 188 shy of Matthew Stafford's mark from last year. Meanwhile, Manning's 114.5 passer rating currently ranks fourth all-time. The record is 122.5, set by Aaron Rodgers in 2011.
TOTAL POINTS: The 2007 Patriots hold the mark with 589. The Broncos are the first team to score 50 or more three times in a season since the NFL merger in 1970. The result: They've scored 515 with three games left. It means they have to average only 24.6 the rest of the year to break the mark. They've been held under 30 only twice this season by San Diego in Week 10 and Kansas City in Week 11.
DOUBLE-DIGIT TOUCHDOWNS: Actually, the Broncos have already broken this record, becoming the first team with four players scoring 10 touchdowns or more. But they could make it five. Eric Decker, who scored four TDs in a win over Kansas City two weeks ago, needs two more to join Knowshon Moreno, Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in double digits.
FIRST DOWNS: Maybe not the sexiest statistic, but it speaks to one thing Denver focused on between Manning's first and second year with the Broncos: Running more plays. The Broncos have rarely huddled all season. In the win over Tennessee on Sunday, they ran 91 plays on offense. All those plays, of course, lead to more first downs. So far, Denver has 363 and is on pace for 447. The record is 444, set by the Patriots last year. Ironically, it was New England's 90 plays on offense and 35 first downs in a 31-21 win over Denver last season in Foxboro that opened Manning's eyes and led him to push for a faster tempo this year.
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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