For the second straight week, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has broken a major single-season NFL passing record. One game after eclipsing Tom Brady's touchdown mark, he has now passed Drew Brees for the most passing yards in one season.
UPDATE: Monday, Dec. 30, at 8:55 p.m. ET
According to SI.com's Doug Farrar, the NFL will be reviewing a seven-yard completion from Manning to Eric Decker in the first quarter that, if overturned, would result in Manning finishing the 2013 regular season with 5,470 yards, six yards shy of Drew Brees' previous all-time record set back in 2011.
---End of Update---
Manning entered the Broncos' Week 17 clash with the Oakland Raiders needing 266 yards to surpass the mark set by the New Orleans Saints signal-caller in 2011. He did it with a five-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.
Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network noted the remarkable feat:
The Broncos were quick to offer their congratulations:
Mike Klis of the Denver Post summed up Manning's incredible season:
By setting the record in both key categories during the same campaign, Manning at least puts himself in very strong contention for the greatest regular season ever by a quarterback. And he has done it at age 37 after injury problems threatened his career a few short years ago.
When the Tennessee product torched the reigning champion Baltimore Ravens for 462 yards and seven touchdowns in the season opener, it foreshadowed the amazing year to come. Those seven scores set the pace, allowing him to break Brady's touchdown mark with a game to spare.
After Week 16, Manning was realistic about how long the record would stand in today's pass-happy NFL. The Broncos passed along his comments, in which he said the mark would probably only be temporary, but he planned to enjoy it in the meantime:
Yet while it's certainly possible Manning's new records will fall before the memorabilia even finds a permanent home in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's important to reflect upon how tremendously he has played throughout the 2013 season.
Heading into Week 17, he had racked up 430 more yards and 16 more touchdowns than any other quarterback. He was lapping the field even in an era when aerial attacks rule the league and penalties make it tough for defensive backs to contend with athletic wideouts.
When asked about approaching the record, Manning was quick to credit his teammates, via Mike Morris of the Denver Post:
I really feel like it’s a team accomplishment—certainly an offensive accomplishment. A lot of people played roles in this.
A lot of receivers caught a lot of touchdowns, made a lot of special plays. (Wide receiver) Eric (Decker’s) touchdown today was typical of a lot of great catches that these guys have made all season long. Protection, blocking by the tight ends, running backs—playcalling and scheming—(Offensive Coordinator) Adam Gase has been awesome all year and the coaches that have helped him call those plays.
The Broncos didn't completely abandon the run all season, either. Heading into Week 17, they ranked in the middle of the pack, averaging over 115 rushing yards per game. So Manning wasn't only setting records, but he also helped ensure that the Denver offense had balance.
It shows that when you pair one of the best quarterbacks in league history with an extremely talented group of targets, the sky's the limit. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Knowshon Moreno, among others, deserve credit for this outstanding season.
That said, the biggest moments of the year are still on the horizon for Manning. His regular-season success will likely be unmatched whenever he decides to call it a career, but unless he bulks up his postseason resume, questions about his lasting legacy will remain.
After Manning set the touchdown record in Week 16, Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman laid out the implications for him if Denver is ousted early in the postseason:
If he doesn't win a Super Bowl, it will all mean little. Very little. Almost nothing.
If he's eliminated early in the playoffs, like last season, his NFL epitaph will read like this:
"Here lies Manning's NFL career. One of the best at generating statistics. One of the worst at winning big."
Those numbers will come with an asterisk.
A lot of people, most notably those who favor New England's quarterback in the seemingly endless Brady vs. Manning debate, feel the same way. Without more playoff wins and another Super Bowl ring or two, the records won't hold as much weight in the eyes of some.
Manning and his arsenal can enjoy the new records and rest up during the Broncos' bye week, but there's plenty of work left to do.