Before he stepped onto Sports Authority Field at Mile High tonight, Peyton Manning already owned almost every major passing record in the NFL record book. He's been voted league MVP a whopping 5 times. He owns the single-season passing touchdown record (55), the single season passing yardage record (5,477), as well as the single-game TD record (7).
But under the lights of Sunday Night Football (NBC), he emerged alone atop arguably the most significant league passing record, when he hit Demaryius Thomas for his 509th passing touchdown and the all-time record. The record was previously held by Brett Favre with 508. Unlike Major League Baseball, where every major record is met with pomp and circumstance, NFL records, when they fall, are met with a brief moment of congratulation, but then the show must go on.
Tonight's Mile High Magic was something special, however. Dare I say, even more impressive than when Emmitt Smith broke Walter Payton's career rushing yardage record? With 18,355 rushing yards, most NFL fans suppose that Smith's record will stand for a long, long time. Minnesota Vikings running back and 2012 league MVP, Adrian Peterson, was the most likely to break it, before he got into trouble off the field.
But Manning's passing TD record will stand even longer. Think about how long a quarterback must play and how prolific one must be, to even sniff the 500-TD mark. As of today, only two gunslingers in NFL history have ever reached it. Manning and Favre.
Among active quarterbacks, Drew Brees (374) and Tom Brady (372) are the closest to the "500 Club", respectively. Brady is playing in his 15th season and although anything is possible, it seems doubtful that he'll crack 500, especially when you consider the level of talent around him, or lack thereof. It's not what it once was.
Brees, however, is playing in his 14th season and under the offensive brain-child, Sean Payton, it seems imminent that he'll one day join the "500 Club". The New Orleans Saints remain committed to putting top-shelf skill-position pieces around Brees, to keep the offensive juggernaut machine well-oiled.
Going into tonight's game, Manning had tossed 107 of his 506 touchdowns while in a Broncos uniform. A jaw-dropping feat, when you consider that he's only been in Denver for less than two and a half seasons. He has taken a resurgent Broncos franchise, who had gained some momentum under the implausible miracle worker, Tim Tebow, to the upper echelon of the NFL.
30-7. That's his record as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. It also happens to be the best record in the league, since 2012. Over the last two seasons, he's guided the Broncos to the AFC's #1 seed. He also led the Broncos to their 7th Super Bowl appearance as a franchise, albeit in a humbling loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
It's conceivable that he could crack 600 TDs, before he hangs up his cleats. But none of these accolades are enough for the Sheriff. Manning has two and a half years left on his contract with the Broncos and he'll settle for nothing less than the same story-book ending that capped off his boss, John Elway's, career; to ride off into the sunset as a back-to-back Super Bowl champion.
Here's a re-cap of the historic play via Sunday Night Football and NBC.