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Manning Up: Peyton's Pursuit for TD Records

A breakdown of all three of Peyton Manning's touchdown passes from the Broncos victory over the Colts on Sunday Night Football. See where Manning stands in pursuit of the all-time passing touchdown record, as well as his own single-season touchdown record.

Peyton will already go down as one of the greatest players ever, but these records would make his career even more prolific.
Peyton will already go down as one of the greatest players ever, but these records would make his career even more prolific.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning has, and continues to have an incredible football career. Manning has won five NFL MVP awards, one Super Bowl, and one Super Bowl MVP, along with various other distinctions that set him above others at his position and within the league as a whole. Manning has become known for his record-setting abilities, especially as of late; just last season he set records for most passing touchdowns (55) and most passing yards (5477) in a single season. As far as career numbers go, Manning ranks second in essentially every major career quarterback record, second to only Brett Favre in most of those categories. Many of those records will require Manning to play at least one more season past the current one, but the one that is very attainable is the record for most touchdown passes in a career.

Manning's touchdown count entering 2014 was at 491, while Favre's record stands at 508, which means that Manning can pass Favre with yes, 18 touchdown passes; it's almost too perfect. In Peyton's career, he has not passed for under 26 touchdowns in a season, and coming off his record-setting season in 2013, Manning has an equally strong, if not stronger offense than before; in other words, the record should happen, and it should happen soon.

This here is the first installment of the Manning TD Tracker, which will count down Manning's pursuit of the all-time passing touchdown record, as well as his pursuit to surpass his own TD record from last season. Each week I'll be breaking down each of Manning's touchdown passes, complete with GIFs and illustrations.

Touchdown #1:

17 remaining for Favre's all-time record, 55 remaining to break 2013's single-season record

Receiver: Julius Thomas

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/14:14

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


On third-and-three from the Colts' three yard line, the Broncos lined up in a 3-wide set, with a base offensive line; Emmanuel Sanders was split out wide to the left, Demaryius Thomas lined up in the left slot, and Andre Caldwell was the outside right wide receiver. Julius Thomas was the lone tight end on the play, lined up off-set and to the left of the offensive line, Montee Ball was the lone running back, lined up to the right of Manning, who was in shotgun (five yards from the LOS).

The Colts countered the Broncos with a 3-3-5 Nickel defensive alignment, with three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs.


Indianapolis rushed five defenders on the play, sending two linebackers on a blitz (one delayed) along with the three defensive linemen. The Broncos O-line picked up the blitzing linebackers, but failed to stop Cory Redding, who went nearly untouched by Orlando Franklin into the backfield, putting a hit on Peyton as he released the ball.


Despite the impending hit, Manning delivered the ball to Julius, who was cutting across the field on a drag route, covered by linebacker Jerrell Freeman on the play. Freeman was called for defensive holding, but Julius still managed to gain separation anyhow, reeling in Manning's first touchdown of the season.

Touchdown #2:

16 remaining for Favre's all-time record, 54 remaining to break 2013's single-season record

Receiver: Julius Thomas

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/6:41

Down/Distance: 1st and 10, IND 35 yard line (35-yard score)


On Manning's second passing touchdown of the game, the Broncos lined up in a two tight-end set, with Julius Thomas lined up in a three-point stance on the LOS directly to the right of RT Chris Clark, and Virgil Green directly to Thomas' right, in a three-point stance, slightly behind the LOS. Demaryius Thomas lined up as the left wide receiver, with Emmanuel Sanders in the left slot position. Montee Ball was the only running back, lined up seven yards behind Manning, who took the snap from under center.

The Colts lined up in a base 4-3 defense, with four defensive linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs. Two defensive backs lined up in press man coverage against the Broncos' wide receivers, while two linebackers lined up in coverage against the Broncos' two tight ends.


Off the snap, the Colts did not blitz, simply sending four rushers at the quarterback. Montee Ball was on a release route, staying in the pocket for blitz pick-up, before running a short out route. The Broncos O-line gave Manning plenty of time and a sizable pocket to throw from.


Sanders and Thomas took their defenders deep, while Julius ran a crossing route underneath. Taking advantage of the mismatched defender in coverage (D'Qwell Jackson), Thomas found separation across the middle where Manning found him with the pass. Julius caught the ball at the Colts' 21-yard line with plenty of separation on D'Qwell Jackson. From there, it was smooth sailing to the end zone, as Thomas simply outran Jackson and slipped by safety Darius Butler for the score, putting the Broncos up 17-0.

Touchdown #3:

15 remaining for Favre's all-time record, 53 remaining to break 2013's single-season record

Receiver: Julius Thomas

Quarter/Time: 2nd Quarter/2:00

Down/Distance: 2nd and 5, IND 5 yard line (5-yard score)


Peyton's third and final touchdown pass of the game and first half came from a four-wide set, with Manning lined up under center, and Montee Ball aligned directly behind Manning as the solo running back, six yards off the LOS. In the four-wide set, Julius Thomas lined up as the right wide receiver, Demaryius was the left wide receiver, with Andre Caldwell (outside) and Emmanuel Sanders (inside) both in the left slot.

The Colts defense was lined up in a 3-4 formation, with three linemen, four linebackers, and four defensive backs. The defensive backs all lined up man-to-man on the Broncos receivers. Colts safety LaRon Landry was lined up in coverage on Julius Thomas, who would eventually haul in the touchdown pass.


Off the snap, the Colts defense brought the house, rushing the entire front seven defenders on the blitz. The Broncos offensive line was able to hold off the blitz just long enough (a mere one second) for Manning to find Julius Thomas on the slant route in the end zone. Thomas beat Landry inside off the snap and never looked back, catching the ball with Landry nowhere near him in coverage.




Current TD Count

This Time Last Year (2013)

On Pace For

% of Last Year's Total






After throwing a trifecta of touchdown passes to Julius Thomas in last night's victory over the Colts, Manning now sits 15 touchdowns away from the all-time record, held by Brett Favre. If he maintains his current pace of three touchdowns per game, Peyton should hold the record by the end of the New York Jets game on October 12, which would have him breaking it against one of Favre's former teams. If Manning hopes to beat his own record from last season, he'll need to average 3.53 touchdowns per game for the remainder of the season. The Chiefs are next on the schedule, and they present a favorable matchup for Manning, with numerous injuries to their defense. Peyton has averaged two touchdowns per game against the Chiefs over his career (10 games), and 2.75 per game (11 touchdowns in four games) against the Chiefs since becoming a Denver Bronco, including a five touchdown performance last season. If all goes well, Manning could be in for a hey-day against the ailing KC defense and take a big leap closer to both records he is chasing.