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Manning Up: Peyton Manning to Sanders, Sanders, Sanders

Manning continued his assault on opposing defenses Thursday night, lighting up the Chargers for three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders. See why each play worked with a detailed breakdown.

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Emmanuel Sanders was all smiles on Thursday night, as he found the end-zone three times against the Chargers.
Emmanuel Sanders was all smiles on Thursday night, as he found the end-zone three times against the Chargers.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Once again we break down each of Peyton Manning's touchdowns and measure how he is doing compared to records that need breakin' and his 2013 pace.

Recap of Last Week

Last week was a historic, record-breaking week for Peyton Manning, as he took complete control of the record for all-time touchdown passes in a career. Manning threw for four touchdowns, claiming the record with his third of the night, after tying Favre's previous record of 508 with his second passing TD against the 49ers. Manning entered Week Eight on pace for 50-51 touchdowns on the season, which would land him 4-5 short of his single-season record from 2013. The record would be attainable if Manning threw for 3.7 touchdowns per game for the remainder of the season, starting in Week 8 against the Chargers.

Touchdown #1

Manning to Sanders Chargers TD 1

20th TD pass of the season, 36 touchdowns remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/ 13:41

Down/Distance: 3rd and 2, SD 2 yard line (2-yard score)

On the first touchdown of the game, the Broncos lined up in 11-personnel (one running back and one tight end), with Julius Thomas as the tight end on the left end of the line, and Ronnie Hillman as the lone back to the right of Peyton Manning. Demaryius Thomas split out wide right, with Wes Welker playing in the right slot, and Emmanuel Sanders split about five yards off the line on the left hand side of the offense. San Diego's defense showed a 3-3-5 wide nickel look, with defensive backs lined up showing man coverage on all three wide-outs, and all three linebackers showing a blitz look.


Upon the snap of the ball, Manning ran right on a designed QB roll-out, with all of the offensive line pulling right to keep the quarterback protected. Ronnie Hillman acted as a semi-lead blocker role, running ahead of Manning in pass protection, while Julius Thomas also stayed in to protect the quarterback. Manning's first read was to Demaryius Thomas, who ran a "zig" route right along the front line of the end-zone. The route was identical to one that Thomas made Shareece Wright look silly on earlier in the game, and similar to the one on which he caught Manning's record-setting 509th touchdown pass. This time, Wright maintained tight coverage on Thomas, possibly getting away with contact past the one-yard allowance. Upon reading this, and likely noticing Welker in tight coverage in the corner of the end-zone, Manning moved to his third read, which was Emmanuel Sanders running a crossing route from the left-to-right of the end-zone. Sanders managed to lose Jason Verrett on his route across the end-zone, and was able to haul in the pass from Manning with two (and an extra third) foot in-bounds for his second touchdown of the season.


Touchdown #2

Manning to Sanders Chargers TD 2

21st touchdown of the season, 35 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/ 0:39

Down/Distance: 3rd and 2, SD 31 yard line (31-yard score)

The Broncos offensive formation for the second touchdown was nearly identical to their formation on the first touchdown. For the second TD of the night, Demaryius Thomas simply swapped places with Emmanuel Sanders, moving wide left, while Sanders lined up wide right, and CJ Anderson was in at running back, to the left of Manning in shotgun. The Chargers defense also lined up in a similar formation to the touchdown, with a 3-3-5 nickel defense and defensive backs lined up over top of the three wide receivers; both safeties lined up in the middle of the field, around eight yards off the line of scrimmage.


Off the snap, the Chargers sent two additional defenders on a blitz, sending five defenders in total to rush the passer, while the defensive backs played straight man coverage on the receivers to the outside with one deep safety. Eric Weddle, the strong safety on the play, picked up Julius Thomas in man coverage, and linebacker Andrew Gachkar picked up CJ Anderson's delayed route out of the backfield. Both Broncos outside receivers ran go routes, while Wes Welker ran a flag or corner route from the right slot, and Julius ran a short in route over the middle of the field. Manning took the ball from shotgun and took a quick three-step drop, looking off the deep safety, Jahleel Addae, holding him in the middle of the field. Once he reached the top of his drop, Manning made his first read to the right side of the field, where Emmanuel Sanders was running a go route against Richard Marshall.


Sanders was able to beat Marshall's press coverage and create separation right off the line of scrimmage; meanwhile, Addae was held too far inside by Manning's look-off, and was unable to come across the field and make a play on the ball. Reading this, Manning threw the ball ahead of Sanders, allowing him to run under the ball and run untouched into the end-zone for his second score of the night, and third of the season.

Sanders separation

Touchdown #3

Manning to Sanders Chargers TD 3

22nd touchdown of the season, 34 remaining to break last year's single-season record

Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders

Quarter/Time: 3rd Quarter/10:58

Down/Distance: 2nd and 3/ SD 3 yard line (3-yard score)

For the second straight week, every single one of the Broncos' passing touchdowns came in 11-personnel. On this play the lone back, Ronnie Hillman, was lined up to the right of Manning in shotgun, with Julius Thomas, the lone tight end, lined up in a three-point stance on the right side of the offensive line. Demaryius Thomas lined up in the left inside slot, split a couple yards off of the left side of the line, with Wes Welker directly next to him in the left outside slot; Emmanuel Sanders lined up split wide left. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers lined up in a 3-4 defense, with CBs lined up opposite of Sanders and Welker, and the safeties lined up opposite of Demaryius and Julius Thomas.


Off the snap, the Chargers rushed three, and dropped into a Cover-3 defense, with three defensive backs in deep zone, and all four linebackers in short zone coverage; Shareece Wright was the lone defender in man coverage, lined up against Emmanuel Sanders wide left. Hillman and Julius stayed in for pass protection yet again, marking the second red-zone TD of the game where Thomas was used as a blocker as opposed to running a route. Sanders was able to get Wright leaning and off-balance with a fake to the corner, before cutting inside on a slant, where he slipped in behind the linebacker's zone and underneath the deep zone. All three of Manning's reads are on the left side of the field, making it easy to spot Sanders, who got wide open for the reception, giving him his third touchdown on the night.



With three more touchdown passes, all of which fell into the arms of Emmanuel Sanders, Manning is now throwing 3.14 touchdowns per game, which will put him at 50 to end the season if he continues this production. With 22 touchdowns in seven games, Manning is three behind his total of 25 in seven games from last season, but he'll have to throw for seven touchdowns next week if he hopes to equal his eight-game total from 2013. With nine games remaining in the season, Peyton will have to throw for 3.78 touchdowns in the remaining games if he hopes to break his record from 2013. With his current pace, Manning would become the first quarterback ever to throw for 50 touchdowns in multiple seasons; the only other QB to throw for 50 was Tom Brady in 2007. Appropriately, the next match-up on the docket for the Broncos is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Week Current TD Count This Time Last Year (2013) On Pace For % of Last Year's Total
1 3 7 48 42.86%
2 6 9 48 66.67%
3 8 12 43 66.67%
5 12 16 48 75.00%
6 15 20 48 75.00%
7 19 22 51 86.36%
8 22 25 50 88.0%


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