The Associated Press
Not many players can overshadow a wild weekend of NFL playoff possibilities. Peyton Manning can. And did.
Manning broke Tom Brady's single-season record with his 51st touchdown pass, the last of four on Sunday in Denver's 37-13 win at Houston. New England's Brady set the mark in 2007, beating Manning's previous record of 49 in 2004 with Indianapolis.
"I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be a part of NFL history, even though it may be temporary," Manning said after the Broncos (12-3) clinched the AFC West and a first-round playoff bye. "So I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts, and hopefully the Hall of Fame will send the ball back once somebody throws for more."
Manning might have seemed an outsider to re-establish the standard considering the neck injuries that required surgery and forced him to sit out the 2011 season with the Colts. But he's been sensational in Denver and has more records in sight with one game remaining.
He has a career-high 5,211 yards passing this season, third in NFL history and 265 yards shy of the 5,476 yards Drew Brees gained in 2011.
"I'm grateful for people that helped me along the way and I've certainly put some time and work into it," Manning said when asked if he could have predicted grabbing back the record. "But no, it would be hard to say you could have imagined this at that point, so we're excited about the win and hopefully we can keep it going next week."
Manning regained his record with 51 when he threw for 400 yards, with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The 51st was on a 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Just 2½ minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.
He entered the game with 47 and his first touchdown came on a 36-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter. The second was a 10-yard throw to Decker earlier in the fourth period.
The loss extended Houston's franchise-record skid to 13 games. Should they lose to Tennessee next week, the Texans (2-13) will own the first pick in the draft.
The weekend concludes with Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4) in the final game at Candlestick Park on Monday night.
CHIEFS 23, COLTS 7
At Kansas City, Andrew Luck threw for 241 yards and a touchdown, Donald Brown ran 51 yards for another score, and Indianapolis (10-5) assured Denver of the AFC West crown.
The Chiefs (11-4) committed four turnovers. Jamaal Charles ran for 106 yards and the game's opening score.
Kansas City will be the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs and likely will visit the Colts in the wild-card round.
EAGLES 54, BEARS 11
At Philadelphia, Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, LeSean McCoy ran for two scores and Philadelphia (9-6) set up a winner-take-all NFC East matchup at Dallas. That game has been moved to prime time next Sunday.
The Bears (8-7) came in needing a win to clinch the NFC North and the No. 3 seed. But the Eagles (9-6) played like the team trying to lock up a playoff berth.
Now, the Bears must tie or beat the Packers (7-7-1) at home next week to win the North.
COWBOYS 24, REDSKINS 23
Dallas (8-7) staged a late rally to stay in the postseason picture. Tony Romo recovered from a bad interception and rallied the visiting Cowboys from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. He found DeMarco Murray for a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 1:08 remaining.
The victory ended a four-game December losing streak for Dallas.
The Redskins (3-12) lost their seventh straight, the second in a row by one point. Pierre Garcon (11 catches, 144 yards) broke Art Monk's single-season franchise reception record, while coach Mike Shanahan clinched his worst record in his 20 seasons as a head coach.
STEELERS 38, PACKERS 31
At Green Bay, the Packers blew a chance to grab the NFC North lead.
Le'Veon Bell ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:28 left, then Pittsburgh withstood Green Bay's last throw into the end zone. Bell's TD came soon after scrambling Packers quarterback Matt Flynn fumbled while being tackled by Troy Polamalu. The Steelers recovered at the Packers 17 and scored five plays later.
Micah Hyde's 70-yard kickoff return to the Steelers 31 gave the Packers one last chance. Green Bay got to the 1, but after a Packers penalty the game ended when Flynn's pass to Jarrett Boykin sailed incomplete in the end zone.