Manning says TD record is temporary in today’s NFL

Peyton Manning says his 51-TD record will be short-lived,

suggesting Tom Brady will take it back soon enough.

Or, for that matter, any number of other quarterbacks could

break it should NFL owners get their way and expand the season to

18 games.

Perhaps he’s just being pragmatic.

Maybe he’s just being modest.

”I think if it does go to 18 games, I think that is a practical

assessment,” said tight end Julius Thomas, who caught the

record-breaker in Denver’s 37-13 win at Houston on Sunday. ”Those

two extra games would give a quarterback two additional

opportunities to go out there and put more touchdowns on the

board.

”I think that will skew a lot of records. But you know he’s

also a modest person. That’s who he is. It’s pretty remarkable to

throw 51 touchdowns. I believe records are meant to be broken and

most are broken. But that’s one that could stand for a while.”

It will stand for a long time, suggested Eric Decker, who

retrieved the record-breaking memento when Thomas nonchalantly

dropped it, unaware of the famous football’s emotional or even

economic value.

”Of course he’s being modest,” Decker said Monday. ”I think

it’s a tough feat. Fifty-plus touchdowns in a season, you’ve got to

do something very, very special. (Dan) Marino had it for such a

long time and then it went back and forth for a while. But I think

with the game how it is now, it’s more of an offensive game and you

have more opportunities to maybe do something like this.

”But I think the numbers he has put up, I think it’s tough to

match those unless you have an unbelievable year.”

That, Manning has.

He began the season by becoming the first QB since 1969 to throw

for seven TDs in a game, one of eight games this season in which

he’s thrown for four or more touchdowns.

He’s thrown a dozen TD passes to Julius Thomas and Demaryius

Thomas and 10 each to Decker and Wes Welker.

After breaking Brady’s single-season touchdown record of 50 on

Sunday, Manning is 266 yards from breaking Drew Brees’

single-season mark for yards passing. The Broncos are 18 points shy

of setting a single-season scoring record and 28 points from

becoming the league’s first 600-point team.

They’re already the first team in NFL history with five players

with at least 10 touchdowns; running back Knowshon Moreno has 10 TD

runs and two TD catches. Nobody else has had four players with

double-digit TDs.

It’s gotten to the point where it’s expected that the Broncos

will put up gaudy numbers week in and week out and when they don’t

march right down the field, fans wonder what’s wrong.

”Yeah, we talked about that a little bit earlier in the season,

if we punt, man, we would get booed,” Julius Thomas said. ”But it

just speaks to what we’ve done as an offense. We have no problem

with people having high expectations of us because we have high

expectations of ourselves.”

Maybe that’s why he didn’t realize he had the record-holder in

his hands when he caught No. 51 Sunday and just let it go instead

of holding onto it. Decker picked up the ball and tucked it in the

side of his jersey, where it remained as he walked off the

field.

”It wouldn’t have surprised me if Julius would have went and

handed it to some babe up in the stands, trying to get her phone

number in exchange for the ball,” Manning joked. ”That would be

right up Julius’ alley.”

Julius Thomas said: ”I don’t think I’ll be using that tactic.

But I guess if it was the right girl, maybe I’d think about

it.”

Decker, who was pranked by Manning in the offseason, when the

quarterback invited him for a weekend passing camp at Duke and

tricked him into thinking he had to pay thousands of dollars for

doing so, saw an opportunity for payback.

”I was going to take it home. That’s an item that is going to

go for a lot,” Decker said Monday. ”Naw, it was one of those

pranks where he got me at Duke. I figured this was maybe a time

where I could hold the ball ransom and see what I could get out of

it. But I had to give it to him, and that was such a cool thing to

be a part of.”

Of course, Manning can make it even more difficult to break his

TD record when the Broncos (12-3) visit the Oakland Raiders (4-11)

on Sunday.

Because the Broncos need to win to stay ahead of New England in

the race for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and

the Patriots kick off against Buffalo at the same time, Manning,

and not his backup, Brock Osweiler, will be under center

fine-tuning things before the playoffs.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on

Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton