Peyton Manning sets NFL record as Broncos rout Raiders for AFC's top seed
Oakland • There is plenty of evidence that says Broncos fans just watched the greatest offensive team, and the best single-season quarterback performance, in NFL history.
While demolishing the pitiful Oakland Raiders, 34-14, on a warm, bright, late December Sunday in the final game of the regular season, Peyton Manning and the Broncos finished off all the significant passing and scoring records.
Manning needed only the first half to complete 25-of-28 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns while building a 31-0 lead. He went into the intermission with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards for the season.
The NFL has been around since 1920, or 93 years. No quarterback has done better. The previous touchdown passing record, which Manning surpassed last week, was 50, set by New England's Tom Brady in 2007. The previous yardage mark was 5,476, set by New Orleans' Drew Brees in 2011.
Manning's Broncos finished with 606 points, breaking the old mark of 589 set by Brady's Patriots of 2007.
For all of these accomplishments to be remembered through time, though, the Broncos' work is far from finished. The 2007 Patriots did not go down as the best team in NFL history, despite their 16-0 regular-season record and offensive prowess.
There are numbers on a stat page and record book. And there are discussions around the water cooler and radio sports channels.
If the Broncos win the Super Bowl this season, they should go down as the undisputed best offensive team in history. Manning will have stamped his greatness with the league's most prolific passing season.
But, if the Broncos fall short in the postseason, they likely will be remembered as an offense that put up "Star Wars" numbers during the regular season, but couldn't get it done when it counted most. They would be like Sam Snead or Greg Norman, great golfers known for struggling in the majors, and therefore not remembered as the greatest golfers of all time.
The Broncos were thought to be a great team at this time a year ago. They had won 11 in a row heading into the postseason. Then they lost one in a row.
Again this year, the Broncos have the No. 1 AFC playoff seed. They will get a bye through next week's first round, then will play the following weekend at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Win that second-round game and the Broncos will play in the AFC championship possibly against the No. 2 seeded Patriots or No. 3 seeded Cincinnati Bengals again in front of their home fans on Jan. 19. Win that game and the Broncos will play in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 in the New Jersey Meadowlands' MetLife Stadium.
Win that game and Manning and the Broncos can stake a claim as the greatest offensive team in NFL history.
All they could do Sunday was notify the history authors of a possible rewrite.
Manning needed only two quarters to cap his historic regular season, and give backup Brock Osweiler his most significant playing time in two years. On his first drive, Manning zipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker. After breaking the touchdown passing record the previous week in Houston, Manning extended it with No. 52.
No. 53 was a flip to running back Knowshon Moreno, who finished off the 7-yard score by waltzing through the no-fight Raiders.
Manning then saved arguably his most beautiful pass of the season for the second quarter, when he heaved a long one down the middle of the field to Demaryius Thomas, who caught it in stride and finished off the 63-yard score. That was No. 54.
With seconds remaining in the first half, Manning needed 5 yards to break Brees' yardage record. The ball just happened to be on the Raiders' 5-yard line. Manning connected with Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown pass. That gave him No. 55 and 5,477.
All the records were in the books and the game was in the bank. A fifth MVP is certain to hit Manning's trophy case. He couldn't have done much more in the regular season.
Manning and the Broncos have so much more work to do in the postseason.