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Broncos 37, Texans 13: Peyton Manning passed for 400 yards and his fourth touchdown toss of the contest established the new NFL single-season record of 51 passing scores as visiting Denver knocked off Houston to clinch the AFC West and earn a first-round playoff bye.
Manning threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes, with the record-breaker being a 25-yard strike to tight end Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Eric Decker caught 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns to become the fifth member of the Broncos (12-3) with 10 or more TDs this season and Demaryius Thomas had eight catches for 123 yards and one score.
Houston (2-13) extended its franchise-worst losing streak to 13 and clinched the worst record in the NFL. Embattled quarterback Matt Schaub returned to the starting role with Case Keenum sidelined and was intercepted twice while passing for 176 yards and one touchdown.
The Texans trailed by 10 at halftime and moved within 16-13 on Schaub’s 15-yard touchdown throw to Keshawn Martin early in the third quarter. Manning hit Decker for a 10-yard score early in the fourth and then matched Tom Brady’s 2007 record of 50 scoring passes with a 20-yard aerial to Decker with 6:57 remaining.
Manning passed for 296 yards in the first half – his most since a 317-yard opening half against Tennessee on Dec. 5, 2004 – as the Broncos built a 16-6 advantage. Manning tossed a 36-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas and Matt Prater booted three field goals, while Houston’s points were on two kicks by Randy Bullock.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Manning topped 5,000 yards for the first time in his career. His total sits at 5,211, third all-time behind Drew Brees (5,476 in 2011) and Brady (5,235 in 2011). … Texans WR Andre Johnson had four receptions for 63 yards to increase his season total to 103 and give him the fifth 100-catch campaign of his career, tying the NFL mark held by Broncos WR Wes Welker. … Denver OLB Von Miller (knee) left the game in the first quarter and Welker (concussion) missed his second consecutive game.