NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - INSIDE SLANT
The Houston Texans, 2-13, are eliminated from playoff contention.
The NFL Draft is May 8-10.
Peyton Manning passed for 400 yards and set an NFL record for touchdown passes with his 51st this season while leading the Denver Broncos to a 37-13 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
With his 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas at the 4:28 mark of the fourth quarter, Manning eclipsed the single-season mark of 50 set by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2007. Just two years removed from a series of neck surgeries that threatened to cut short his Hall of Fame career, Manning effusively praised those who helped him reach this milestone.
"I've put a lot of time and a lot of hard work into it but I've received a lot of help along the way from coaches and trainers and strength coaches and teammates," said Manning, who previously held the single-season TD mark with 49 in 2004. "I'm very grateful. When something like this happens it just reminds me even more of just how grateful and thankful I am for all the people that have helped me during this second chapter."
Combined with the Kansas City Chiefs' 23-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos' victory clinched the AFC West crown. Denver (12-3) clung to a 16-13 lead before pulling away in the fourth quarter to send the Texans (2-13) to their 13th consecutive loss in their home finale.
With his 20-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Eric Decker with 6:57 remaining in the fourth quarter, Manning matched the single-season record of 50. Two minutes later he etched his name in the record book yet again.
"Brady will probably break it again next year if not the year after," said Manning, who will enter the season finale against the Oakland Raiders 266 yards shy of breaking Drew Brees' record of 5,476 yards set in 2011 with the Saints. "So we'll enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Hopefully the Hall of Fame will send the ball back when somebody throws for more."
Denver might have immediate concerns on defense. Linebacker Von Miller left with a knee injury the team fears could be serious.
The Broncos labored in the first half, settling for three Matt Prater field goals -- two after penetrating the red zone. The Texans followed by shutting down Manning in the third quarter, limiting Denver to just 38 yards and one first down on 14 plays while cutting into a 16-6 deficit.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, making his first start Oct. 13 against the St. Louis Rams, connected on a 15-yard touchdown to Keshawn Martin with 10:33 left in the third to pull Houston to within 16-13. But early in the fourth quarter, Schaub tossed an ill-advised sideline pass that was picked off by Broncos cornerback Mike Adams. Denver took over at the Houston 28-yard line and Manning was quick to convert.
"It looked like a combination (of factors) to me," Texans interim coach Wade Phillips said of the Schaub interception. "Obviously he scrambled a little bit with the ball. It was a young receiver (rookie DeAndre Hopkins) there. I think you have to make sure they don't get the ball.
"If you don't get it, they don't get it. It wasn't all Matt, I don't believe, on that play."
Two snaps after the turnover, Manning threw a 10-yard touchdown to Decker that extended the lead to 23-13 with 13:26 left. All that remained was the march toward the record. The drama ended quickly.
"Real excited to be around a guy that goes about his business like he does get rewarded with success," Denver coach John Fox said of Manning. "Very humble. He said the best news he heard was we won the AFC West for a third straight year."
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - NOTES, QUOTES
With his 33-yard reception in the first quarter, Texans WR Andre Johnson matched Broncos WR Wes Welker for the most 100-catch seasons in NFL history with five.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You know Peyton Manning wants to throw the ball. They are not a running team. I think I went out there on the field expecting them to throw. He wants to set some records and stuff like that, but that's their offense. They are a throwing offense. That's how they move the ball, so I wasn't disappointed to see that." -- Free safety Shiloh Keo, on the Broncos going for the end zone up 30-13 late in the fourth quarter so that Peyton Manning could set the single-season record for touchdown passes.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
What we learned:
Quarterback Matt Schaub was serviceable in his return to the starting lineup but was once again undone by a critical, late-game turnover. With Houston trailing 16-13 in the fourth quarter, Schaub forced a sideline pass to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins that Broncos defensive back Mike Adams picked off. Denver scored two plays later to extend its lead to 10 points.
"Yeah, I would say I probably forced that one on the sideline to DeAndre," Schaub said. "Probably better just throwing it away in that situation, but in this type of game, we ought to go out and try to make plays."
--Quietly, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is producing one of the better seasons of his exceptional career. On Sunday, he joined Broncos receiver Wes Welker as the only players in NFL history with five 100-catch seasons. Johnson has 103 receptions for 1,358 yards and five touchdowns, but the Texans are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak.
"Like I said, it's a great thing to have happen, but under these circumstances it really doesn't matter," Johnson said.