Not many players can overshadow a wild weekend of NFL playoff possibilities. Peyton Manning can. And did.
Manning broke Tom Brady's single-season record with his 51st touchdown pass, the last of four on Sunday in Denver's 37-13 win at Houston. New England's Brady set the mark in 2007, beating Manning's previous record of 49 in 2004 with Indianapolis.
''I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be a part of NFL history, even though it may be temporary,'' Manning said after the Broncos (12-3) clinched the AFC West and a first-round playoff bye. ''So I'm going to enjoy it as long as it lasts, and hopefully the Hall of Fame will send the ball back once somebody throws for more.''
Manning might have seemed an outsider to re-establish the standard considering the neck injuries that required surgery and forced him to sit out the 2011 season with the Colts. But he's been sensational in Denver and has more records in sight with one game remaining.
He has a career-high 5,211 yards passing this season, third in NFL history and 265 yards shy of the 5,476 yards Drew Brees gained in 2011.
''I'm grateful for people that helped me along the way and I've certainly put some time and work into it,'' Manning said when asked if he could have predicted grabbing back the record. ''But no, it would be hard to say you could have imagined this at that point, so we're excited about the win and hopefully we can keep it going next week.''
Manning regained his record with 51 when he threw for 400 yards, with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The 51st was on a 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas with 4:28 remaining. Just 2 1/2 minutes earlier, he tied the mark with a 20-yard pass to Eric Decker.
He entered the game with 47 and his first touchdown came on a 36-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the second quarter. The second was a 10-yard throw to Decker earlier in the fourth period.
The loss extended Houston's franchise-record skid to 13 games. Should they lose to Tennessee next week, the Texans (2-13) will own the first pick in the draft.
The weekend concludes with Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4) in the final game at Candlestick Park on Monday night.
CHIEFS 23, COLTS 7
At Kansas City, Andrew Luck threw for 241 yards and a touchdown, Donald Brown ran 51 yards for another score, and Indianapolis (10-5) assured Denver of the AFC West crown.
The Chiefs (11-4) committed four turnovers. Jamaal Charles ran for 106 yards and the game's opening score.
Kansas City will be the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs and likely will visit the Colts in the wild-card round.
EAGLES 54, BEARS 11
At Philadelphia, Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes, LeSean McCoy ran for two scores and Philadelphia (9-6) set up a winner-take-all NFC East matchup at Dallas. That game has been moved to prime time next Sunday.
The Bears (8-7) came in needing a win to clinch the NFC North and the No. 3 seed. But the Eagles (9-6) played like the team trying to lock up a playoff berth.
Now, the Bears must tie or beat the Packers (7-7-1) at home next week to win the North.
COWBOYS 24, REDSKINS 23
Dallas (8-7) staged a late rally to stay in the postseason picture. Tony Romo recovered from a bad interception and rallied the visiting Cowboys from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. He found DeMarco Murray for a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 1:08 remaining.
The victory ended a four-game December losing streak for Dallas.
The Redskins (3-12) lost their seventh straight, the second in a row by one point. Pierre Garcon (11 catches, 144 yards) broke Art Monk's single-season franchise reception record, while coach Mike Shanahan clinched his worst record in his 20 seasons as a head coach.
STEELERS 38, PACKERS 31
At Green Bay, the Packers blew a chance to grab the NFC North lead.
Le'Veon Bell ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:28 left, then Pittsburgh withstood Green Bay's last throw into the end zone. Bell's TD came soon after scrambling Packers quarterback Matt Flynn fumbled while being tackled by Troy Polamalu. The Steelers recovered at the Packers 17 and scored five plays later.
Micah Hyde's 70-yard kickoff return to the Steelers 31 gave the Packers one last chance. Green Bay got to the 1, but after a Packers penalty the game ended when Flynn's pass to Jarrett Boykin sailed incomplete in the end zone.
It's a long shot, but the Steelers (7-8) are still mathematically in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot. They need a lot of help.
BENGALS 42, VIKINGS 14
At Cincinnati, Vincent Rey returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown as the Bengals clinched the AFC North. Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes as the Bengals (10-5) remained perfect at home and secured an unprecedented third straight playoff appearance.
In his past four home games, Dalton has thrown for five, three, three and four touchdowns. The Bengals have topped 40 points in each of their past four home games, a club record.
The Vikings (4-10-1) had allowed the second-most points in the league heading into the game. They gave up 40 for the third time this season.
PATRIOTS 41, RAVENS 7
At Baltimore, Logan Ryan had two interceptions, LeGarrette Blount scored twice and the Patriots ended the Ravens' four-game winning streak.
The previous time these teams met the AFC title hung in the balance and Baltimore used a strong second half to pull out a 28-13 victory. In this one, New England took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and never let up behind a defense that forced four turnovers and had four sacks.
It was Baltimore's most lopsided loss since a 37-0 defeat at Pittsburgh in 1997.
The Patriots (11-4) earned their fifth straight AFC East title. The 11th division crown for New England coach Bill Belichick tied him with Don Shula for most since the 1970 merger.
The loss dropped the Ravens (8-7) into a tie with Miami and San Diego for the final AFC wild-card slot. Baltimore gets in with a win at Cincinnati.
BILLS 19, DOLPHINS 0
The Dolphins had a three-game winning streak snapped and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season. With the loss, Miami (8-7) needs help from other teams, but must beat the New York Jets next weekend.
Kyle Williams had two of Buffalo's season-best seven sacks to key a stifling defensive performance. The shutout was Buffalo's first since a 23-0 win over Washington at Toronto on Oct. 30, 2011. And it was the Bills' first shutout at Ralph Wilson Stadium since a 21-0 win over Miami on Dec. 17, 2006.
The Bills (6-9) closed their home schedule with seven sacks for 56 this season, breaking their previous high of 50 during a 14-game season in 1964.
PANTHERS 17, SAINTS 13
Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to lift the host Panthers to the team's first playoff berth since 2008. Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.
The Panthers intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times to avenge a 31-13 loss two weeks ago.
Still, the Panthers needed some big, last-minute plays from Newton. He led the Panthers 65 yards in 32 seconds for the winning score.
The Saints (10-5) still are in position to clinch a playoff berth. They have dropped five of their last six games away from the Superdome.
CARDINALS 17, SEAHAWKS 10
At Seattle, Carson Palmer overcame four interceptions to throw a 31-yard touchdown to Michael Floyd with 2:13 left. The Cardinals kept their postseason hopes going while snapping the Seahawks' 14-game home win streak.
Arizona (10-5) had to win after Carolina beat New Orleans. And the Cardinals did thanks to a stingy defense that flustered Russell Wilson into one of his worst days as a pro, delaying any celebration of an NFC West championship. The Seahawks can clinch the division with a win over St. Louis next Sunday.
Palmer twice was intercepted in the end zone, including Richard Sherman's second pick of the game early in the fourth quarter. After Seattle (12-3) took a 10-9 lead with 7:26 left, Palmer led the Cardinals 75 yards and found Floyd for a juggling TD catch.
GIANTS 23, LIONS 20, OT
At Detroit, Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal lifted the Giants and knocked the Lions (7-8) from postseason consideration. They lost for the fifth time in six games, blowing fourth-quarter leads in each setback that might seal Jim Schwartz's fate.
The embattled coach chose to play for overtime by running out the clock with 23 seconds and two timeouts left from the Detroit 25. When the crowd reacted with a chorus of boos, Schwartz turned his head toward the stands and appeared to angrily shout back at the fans.
Schwartz has lost nine straight games in December or January.
CHARGERS 26, RAIDERS 13
At San Diego, the Chargers beat Oakland by overcoming three turnovers while benefiting from two turnovers and 12 penalties for 73 yards by the Raiders.
Philip Rivers threw a go-ahead, 4-yard touchdown pass to rookie Keenan Allen and Ryan Mathews ran for 99 yards and one touchdown, setting a career high with 1,111 yards. Nick Novak kicked four field goals for San Diego (8-7).
The Chargers have won three straight games for the first time this season, but need more help to end a three-year playoff drought. They have to beat Kansas City at home next Sunday and have Miami and Baltimore both lose.
Oakland (4-11) helped San Diego, too, by committing all those penalties.
JETS 24, BROWNS 13
Geno Smith threw two touchdown passes to David Nelson and ran for another score. Smith had his first game with at least two TD passes since October, with no turnovers or sacks. The rookie was 20 of 36 for 214 yards and also ran for 48 yards - including a 17-yard scoring scamper in the fourth quarter.
Chris Ivory rushed for 109 yards on 20 carries for the Jets (7-8), who were eliminated from the playoff picture last week.
Jason Campbell was intercepted twice as the visiting Browns (4-11) lost their sixth straight.
RAMS 23, BUCCANEERS 13
At St. Louis, Robert Quinn got three of St. Louis' seven sacks and set a franchise season record. Quinn leads the NFL with 18 sacks. He broke Kevin Carter's franchise mark of 17 in the 1999 Super Bowl title season.
Zac Stacy rushed for 104 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown, and the Rams (7-8) matched their victory total from last year. But left tackle Jake Long injured his knee on the first series. Coach Jeff Fisher believes Long tore a knee ligament.
The Buccaneers (4-11) managed just 170 total yards, setting a season low for the second straight week.
TITANS 20, JAGUARS 16
At Jacksonville, Nate Washington scored on a 30-yard reception in the fourth quarter and Tennessee (6-9) got a much-needed defensive stop late to end a three-game losing streak.
The highlight for the Jaguars (4-11) came when Jacksonville honored retiring center Brad Meester with a reception - the pass-catching kind.
The Jaguars called a screen play for the 14-year veteran center who announced Wednesday that Sunday's game would be his home finale. Meester reported as an eligible receiver, lined up at tight end and then caught the screen pass to gain 9 yards.
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