HOUSTON - Peyton Manning had to prepare for a two-point conversion and couldn't celebrate when he set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season in 2004.
Yesterday, 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 2 1/2 minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.
After Manning made the record-setting throw to Thomas, he walked toward the end zone, where his teammates patted him on the head. He then took off his helmet and walked 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 said he didn't realize his reception set the record when he caught it.
Manning figures Brady will overtake him again one day, especially if the NFL moves to an 18-game regular season.