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Next Day Notebook: at Houston

Posted Dec 23, 2013

The Broncos can lock up home field through the playoffs Sunday, Julius Thomas didn't know he caught the 51st touchdown and Von Miller left with an injury.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Had Sunday’s 37-13 win in Houston been the final game of the regular season, it would have been a fitting conclusion – tying up all the loose ends. The Broncos claimed their third straight division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Quarterback Peyton Manning set the NFL record for passing touchdowns in a season and the Broncos became the first team in league history to have five players with 10 or more touchdowns.

But the season didn’t end Sunday.

The Broncos have a divisional contest in Oakland next Sunday to end the regular season, and that means that it is back to business as usual this week at Dove Valley.

“You celebrate every victory you get in this league for 24 hours,” defensive end Shaun Phillips said after the victory in Houston. “A win or a loss, you celebrate or you mope for 24 hours. Then you move on and get ready for the next game. I mean, we played a good football team. Their record isn’t indicative of how good that team is. But that is a good football team. They were 12-4 last year or something.

“But that just goes to show you that you have to be on it week-in and week-out, and year-in and year-out.”

While the Houston win provided some exciting milestones, there are a few more within reach in the season finale. Manning is just 265 yards shy of tying the single-season mark for passing yards, and could hit that this week.

In addition, a win in Oakland or a Patriots loss on Sunday would guarantee home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Broncos.

“That’s some more encouraging, good news,” tight end Julius Thomas said. “We understand that we want to make everybody come through Denver. So our work isn’t done. We have to go out and execute well next week and go out and get another victory.”

Win or lose in Week 17, the Broncos have already secured a bye and a home game in the divisional round.

“We’ve clinched a bye, now we want to clinch that one seed and we’ll see where things fall – we can do that next week with a win,” Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said after the game. “So we just want to continue to build off this and continue to play our best football. We want to continue to play good and hopefully take it through the playoffs.”

FINDING 51

When Thomas hauled in a 25-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, he started to celebrate as he normally does -- but it didn’t take long before he realized that he had just caught a historic pass.

“I think I dropped the ball so fast, doing my usual thing, and 'Deck' (Eric Decker) picked it up,” Thomas said “I was like, ‘Why did Deck pick that ball up so fast?’ I’m not paying any attention, I come back to the sidelines, I’m sitting down on the bench and somebody was like, ‘That was the one!’ I said, ‘Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have just dropped it so carelessly. I should’ve kept it!’”

Decker was fully aware of the situation though and scooped up the ball and tucked it away inside his jersey for safe keeping on his way back to the sideline.

The pass to Thomas was Manning’s fourth touchdown of the day and his 51st of the season, setting a new NFL record for touchdown passes in a single season. Thomas’ reaction came as no surprise to Manning.

“Yeah – it wouldn’t have surprised me if Julius would have handed it to some babe up in the stands and tried to get her phone number in exchange for the ball,” Manning joked. “That would be right up Julius’ alley. That’s pretty in-line with his thinking oftentimes.”

In the end, the ball ended up in the right hands, but more importantly, Thomas held on to the ball when it mattered most – when he was crossing the goal line.

“I saw Julius score the touchdown and I remember it just kind of brought a smile to my face,” Manning said. “After that a lot of people were coming toward me and whacking me on the head and slapping me. I was trying to come out of that unscathed. I appreciated coaches and teammates coming up and I had a chance to thank each one of them as well, because I’m truly grateful for all of their help and support.”

VON MILLER INJURED

Linebacker Von Miller made a tackle on the Texans' first play from scrimmage in Sunday’s win, but his day would be cut short by a knee injury later in the quarter.

In his 10 games this season Miller has 34 total tackles, five sacks and nine tackles for loss. He also has a fumble recovery touchdown.

“There is always some concern when your teammate goes down, especially a guy like Von who is really starting to click now,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “It’s unfortunate but hopefully it’s something minor and something he can come back from real quick.”

Linebacker Nate Irving saw some more time on the field as a result of the injury and linebacker Danny Trevathan also shouldered some of the load. Trevathan finished the game with eight total tackles, the second most on the team, to go along with a sack, two tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

Phillips believes, while he hopes that Miller will have a speedy recovery, that this defense has the talent to pick up the slack.

“Hopefully Von is OK,” Phillips said after the game. “We don’t know. But we’ve got a bunch of capable guys. I mean, Robert Ayers plays good football. I could play football. We added (Jeremy) Mincey. I mean, we’ve got a bunch of guys that can play football. It’s got to be next man up because if we worry about one guy, then what are we going to do? We can’t dwell on it. We’ve got to keep rocking.”

An update on the injury could come as soon as this afternoon in Head Coach John Fox's press conference.

After the game, Fox said he didn't know the extent of Miller's injury.

"We’ll run tests," he said Sunday. "It’s in the medical people’s hands right now and anything until we get all the tests would be purely speculation. We’ll just wait till we hear something definitive.”

 

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