receiver Brandon Marshall(notes)
set an NFL record today with 21 receptions in a single game. He broke the record held by Terrell Owens(notes),
when Owens caught 20 on "Jerry Rice Day" for the San Francisco 49ers
on December 17, 2000. And it didn't matter one bit in the end, because Marshall's Broncos were facing the Indianapolis Colts
, who have become the most relentless winning machine in NFL history. With their 28-16 victory over Denver, the Colts broke New England's record of 21 straight regular-season wins, and clinched home field advantage all the way through the AFC playoffs. Peyton Manning(notes)
started out hot, but threw three picks later in the game as the Broncos closed to within five points when Kyle Orton's(notes)
touchdown pass to Marshall made it a 21-16 game with nine minutes left in the game. But Manning responded with a touchdown drive, as he always seems to do, and the Colts socked another one away.
Manning finished with 20 completions on 42 attempts for 220 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. Not his best day overall, but it didn't have to be. The Colts have become the NFL equivalent of those sea creatures who re-grow disabled limbs seemingly on command. Rookie cornerbacks make key stops in run and pass coverage, journeyman linebackers step up and play like All-Pros, and guys who would be third receivers on other teams torch good defenses with long routes. They simply find your weaknesses, wax you silly, and go home -- another win in their pocket. That's why they're the best team in football, and though the postseason has become the definition of "you never know" in the last few years, this has to be the prohibitive AFC Super Bowl favorite. How can they be beaten?
As for Marshall? Congrats, kid. The rest of your team just ran into the proverbial cement mixer -- better luck next time.