Nine years after setting the single-season passing touchdown record for the first time, five years after watching Tom Brady claim the record for himself while torching the league in one of the most impressive single-season quarterbacking campaigns in history, and after two years of undergoing four neck surgeries that probably should have ended his career, Peyton Manning is back on top, with his single most impressive quarterbacking campaign in the history of his long, and illustrious career.
Manning reclaimed the single-season touchdown record with a beautiful over the shoulder pass to Julius Thomas in the back of the endzone, late in the end of the game against the Houston Texans yesterday. It was a third and fourth quarter touchdown barrage that quickly and mercilessly snuffed out any potential chance for the texans to steal the game, a faint hope in the first place. After the game, Manning was about as Manning as he could be about the feat:
"I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be a part of NFL history, even though it may be temporary. I personally think all season records are going down, especially if they go to 18 games, and there won't be an asterisk. Brady will probably break it again next year or the year after. So we'll enjoy it as long as it lasts, and hopefully they Hall of Fame will just send the ball back once somebody throws for more."
This was about the most Peyton Manning thing that he could have said. There's an air of performative humility, which, for Manning, has always been more of a forced attempt at modesty, rather than the obliged modesty that he always gets credited for all too often. There's the "I personally think," lest anyone get the impression he was speaking ex cathedra. And there's the neurotic concern that a perfectly good game ball might not get returned.
"A lot of receivers caught a lot of touchdowns," Manning continued, Manningishly.
Enough can't be said how well Manning has played this season, or how historic of a season it's been considering the details surrounding the performance. At the crisp age of 37 and with the bones in his neck fused together entirely, Manning has put together the greatest quarterbacking campaign in history, and reclaimed his record in only 15 games. He's thrown only 10 interceptions and his completion percentage is an excellent 67%; he only needs to throw for 266 yards more yards against the Oakland Raiders next week to break the single-season record for passing yards. Now, his name will appear twice among the first five on the single-season passing TDs leaderboard, and he will likely become the only quarterback in history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 or more touchdowns in a single season.
Two years ago, headlines were being written that "Peyton Manning likely will never play football again, sources say". This year, he's been his old self again, only more so.
The receiving stats recapitulate Manning's record-setting 2004, when three of his WRs finished with double-digit touchdowns: Marvin Harrison (15), Reggie Wayne (12), and Brandon Stokely (10). All three had over 1,000 receiving yards, but not one reached the 100-reception mark.
To say the least, it can only be simply summed up, that a lot of receivers have caught a lot of touchdowns. That's about it.