DENVER (AP) — Peyton Manning’s receivers played keep-away with his milestone memento and the NFL’s new leader in career touchdown passes toyed with the San Francisco 49ers in the Denver Broncos’ emphatic 42-17 victory Sunday night.
Manning went into the showdown two TDs shy of Brett Favre’s record of 508 and threw four touchdown passes, giving him 510.
He surpassed Favre’s mark with an 8-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas late in the second quarter. As he went to retrieve the football, his teammates decided to have some fun.
Thomas tossed the historic ball over Manning and to Emmanuel Sanders, who then lobbed it to Wes Welker. From there, Welker dished it back to Sanders, who then flipped it to Julius Thomas — all of Manning’s favorite targets getting into the act.
Finally, Manning got the ball along with congratulations from his teammates and coaches.
The souvenir won’t end up on Manning’s mantle, however.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a nice spot all ready for it.
During the celebration on the sideline, Manning watched the giant scoreboard high above him in the south end zone as his boss, GM John Elway, and then Favre, offered their kudos.
“I want to say congratulations for breaking the touchdown record,” Favre said. “I’m not surprised. You’ve been a wonderful player and I’ve enjoyed watching you play. I’ve enjoyed competing against you. I wish you great success for the rest of the season and the rest of your career.”
Manning added a 40-yard TD throw to Thomas after Aqib Talib’s interception in the third quarter that made it 28-10, and then Thomas set up another score with a 49-yard catch.
This time, running back Ronnie Hillman darted through the line for a career-long 37-yard run that made it 35-10. He added a 1-yarder as the Broncos (5-1) finally found a ground game to go with Manning’s passing prowess.
Manning completed 22 of 26 passes for 318 yards with no interceptions to go with his four TD throws. Demaryius Thomas caught eight of those throws for 171 yards.
The 49ers (4-3) did very little right in seeing their three-game winning streak snapped. Their only real highlight was Colin Kaepernick’s 4-yard TD pass to Stevie Johnson with 11 seconds left in the half brought the 49ers to 21-10.
Kaepernick completed 24 of 39 passes for 263 yards with one TD and one interception. He was sacked six times — DeMarcus Ware had three and Von Miller two.
His backup, Blaine Gabbert, threw a 20-yard TD pass to Bruce Ellington with a minute left.
This night belonged the Manning from start to finish.
He threw a 3-yard TD pass to Sanders on Denver’s first drive and tied the record when Welker took a pass over the middle for 39 yards. Sanders’ score was his first in Denver, and he became the 47th player to catch a TD pass from Manning.
Manning reached the milestone in his 246th regular-season game. Favre needed 302.
As Manning approached the milestone, Favre told The Associated Press he was thrilled “it’s Peyton that’s doing it.”
The veneration is mutual, Manning said.
Saying he appreciated Favre’s words of encouragement, Manning suggested that of all the men who have ever taken a snap in the 94-year history of the NFL, “nobody’s defined longevity and career toughness more than him.”
Favre played in a QB-record 297 straight regular-season games during his 20-year NFL career, plus another two dozen in the playoffs. “He always answered the bell every single Sunday and was always producing,” Manning said.
Favre said that were it not for Manning’s neck problems at the tail end of his tenure in Indianapolis, Manning might very well have gone on to eclipse his most hallowed mark, the consecutive games streak, and certainly would have obliterated his career TD mark before Sunday night’s spectacular performance.
“I know Peyton missed a year. Aside from that year, he’s played just like I did. I mean, he’s been out there over and over and over again,” Favre said.
Manning’s 208-game starting streak ended when he sat out the 2011 season following neck fusion surgery.
With the top pick and Andrew Luck there for the taking, the Colts and Manning had a tearful goodbye. And Manning landed in Denver, where he rejuvenated both his stellar career and a foundering franchise.
Among those offering their congratulations on the scoreboard during the game was Fran Tarkenton, who said, “Well, Peyton, it’s official. Your ducks have crossed the end zone more than anybody else’s. But really, congratulations. Nobody has ever played the quarterback position better than you have.”