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Peyton Manning Breaks Tom Brady's Single-Season TD Record

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Manning needed four touchdowns to break the record and he got exactly that against the Texans.

Peyton Manning Breaks Tom Brady's Single-Season TD Record

Yesterday, Peyton Manning became the most prolific touchdown passer in NFL history yesterday when his Denver Broncos beat the Houston Texans 37-13 yesterday. Manning threw four touchdowns in the victory, bringing his season total to 51. That is one more touchdown than New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's previous record of 50 touchdown passes, which he set back during their undefeated 2007 season.

As a record, it is an incredibly impressive accomplishment even with some of the external factors that enabled Manning to achieve this (the myriad rules against defenses/defensive backs, his stable of incredible receivers/tight ends, etc.). He still threw 51 touchdown passes, which is a hell of a lot. Should he play next week, he also has a chance to break Drew Brees' single-season passing yards record that sits at 5,476 yards (Manning has 5,211 currently). 

At 37, this has been a statistical marvel of a season for Manning, but one that will likely be lost in the shuffle of his team's overall performance come January. The narrative terms for greatness will be muddled. Manning has been nothing but great this season in piling up all of these numbers, but what happens if he doesn't win in the playoffs? The same old Manning tropes will be thrown about and we'll likely get another reincarnation of the Manning Face to tie it all up in a bow. But again, this isn't entirely fair to Manning. 

Colin McGowan had a wonderful take on the record, playoff performance and greatness at Sports on Earth and brought it all back to the Manning Face. Here's what he had to say:

"Consider the Manning Face for a moment. OK, stop laughing first. Now parse it with me. It’s not a look of disappointment or anger, something you would expect to see in the countenance of someone on the verge of failing at a task that’s important to them. It’s not embarrassment. It’s not befuddlement.

"It’s a look you might affect while staring at your cell phone submerged in the bowl of a toilet, a sort of knowing resignation. On Manning, it’s an acknowledgement that football, even when everyone talks about how you’ve mastered it, can never be something over which you can assume dominion. You’re only one player, which means countless others can thwart you, and sometimes even you, the charming egghead-king, thwart yourself. Manning might be so good that he’s playing against the sport more than a given opponent, but the sport occasionally humbles him and all he can do is contort his face into a grim, goofy welp.

"Peyton Manning’s career isn’t about what he does on the field anymore so much as it’s a reality play about how, no matter your skill and acumen, there’s still much outside of you — trickster gods, Tracy Porter, whatever — that permits or forbids success. Greatness guarantees nothing. Maybe that’s interesting."

I think that's extremely interesting, and the duality of individual and team success being put on quarterbacks is something I tried to write about in regards to Tony Romo last week. With Peyton Manning, this pressure or narrative idea for his individual success is exponentially multiplied. Unless you are Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, there is no way you can 100% control the outcome of the game, no matter how good you are. This concept gets lost on everyone when talking about Manning and his successes in the playoffs and how he stacks up against other quarterbacks. Tom Brady has three Super Bowls. Ben Roethlisberger has two. Even younger brother Eli has two. Yes, all those players have Super Bowls, but so do the other players on their team. It's so much more than just the quarterback, who is consistently given too much credit and too much blame.

I guess, long story short, is that Peyton Manning's accomplishment shouldn't be diminished. Even if the Broncos fall in the playoffs, this record needs to remain significant, because it is a very impressive record, no matter what his team does or doesn't do. This shouldn't be diminished in the slightest.

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