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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - Peyton Manning says his 51-TD record will be short-lived, suggesting Tom Brady will take it back soon enough.
Or, for that matter, any number of other quarterbacks could break it should NFL owners get their way and expand the season to 18 games.
Perhaps he's just being pragmatic.
Maybe he's just being modest.
"I think if it does go to 18 games, I think that is a practical assessment," said tight end Julius Thomas, who caught the record-breaker in Denver's 37-13 win at Houston on Sunday. "Those two extra games would give a quarterback two additional opportunities to go out there and put more touchdowns on the board.
"I think that will skew a lot of records. But you know he's also a modest person. That's who he is. It's pretty remarkable to throw 51 touchdowns. I believe records are meant to be broken and most are broken. But that's one that could stand for a while."
It will stand for a long time, suggested Eric Decker, who retrieved the record-breaking memento when Thomas nonchalantly dropped it, unaware of the famous football's emotional or even economic value.
"Of course he's being modest," Decker said Monday. "I think it's a tough feat. Fifty-plus touchdowns in a season, you've got to do something very, very special. (Dan) Marino had it for such a long time and then it went back and forth for a while. But I think with the game how it is now, it's more of an offensive game and you have more opportunities to maybe do something like this.
"But I think the numbers he has put up, I think it's tough to match those unless you have an unbelievable year."
That, Manning has.
He began the season by becoming the first QB since 1969 to throw for seven TDs in a game, one of eight games this season in which he's thrown for four or more touchdowns.
He's thrown a dozen TD passes to Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas and 10 each to Decker and Wes Welker.
After breaking Brady's single-season touchdown record of 50 on Sunday, Manning is 266 yards from breaking Drew Brees' single-season mark for yards passing. The Broncos are 18 points shy of setting a single-season scoring record and 28 points from becoming the league's first 600-point team.
They're already the first team in NFL history with five players with at least 10 touchdowns; running back Knowshon Moreno has 10 TD runs and two TD catches. Nobody else has had four players with double-digit TDs.
It's gotten to the point where it's expected that the Broncos will put up gaudy numbers week in and week out and when they don't march right down the field, fans wonder what's wrong.
"Yeah, we talked about that a little bit earlier in the season, if we punt, man, we would get booed," Julius Thomas said. "But it just speaks to what we've done as an offense. We have no problem with people having high expectations of us because we have high expectations of ourselves."
Maybe that's why he didn't realize he had the record-holder in his hands when he caught No. 51 Sunday and just let it go instead of holding onto it. Decker picked up the ball and tucked it in the side of his jersey, where it remained as he walked off the field.
"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," Manning joked. "That would be right up Julius' alley."
Julius Thomas said: "I don't think I'll be using that tactic. But I guess if it was the right girl, maybe I'd think about it."
Decker, who was pranked by Manning in the offseason, when the quarterback invited him for a weekend passing camp at Duke and tricked him into thinking he had to pay thousands of dollars for doing so, saw an opportunity for payback.
"I was going to take it home. That's an item that is going to go for a lot," Decker said Monday. "Naw, it was one of those pranks where he got me at Duke. I figured this was maybe a time where I could hold the ball ransom and see what I could get out of it. But I had to give it to him, and that was such a cool thing to be a part of."
Of course, Manning can make it even more difficult to break his TD record when the Broncos (12-3) visit the Oakland Raiders (4-11) on Sunday.
Because the Broncos need to win to stay ahead of New England in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and the Patriots kick off against Buffalo at the same time, Manning, and not his backup, Brock Osweiler, will be under center fine-tuning things before the playoffs.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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