DENVER – It was fitting that the man whose record Demaryius Thomas broke on Sunday was Rod Smith, who Thomas says he "looked up to" as a rookie when he joined the Broncos in 2010.
"All the respect to Rod because when I first got to Denver, he was there for me," Thomas said Sunday after eclipsing Smith's single-season franchise record of 1,602 receiving yards.
Thomas' 115-yard performance put him past that benchmark by 17 yards, but also marked his 10th 100-yard game of the season, tying for third-most in NFL history and only one behind the record 11 held by Michael Irvin and Calvin Johnson.
Looking back at the first three games of the season – when Thomas had a modest (by his standards) 13 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown – the record-breaking finish is all the more impressive. Over the final 13 games of the season, Thomas averaged 7.5 catches for 113.7 yards per game while collecting 10 touchdowns, despite being what Peyton Manning called "a marked man from defenses."
"It's special," Thomas said. "I can say some of the hard work I've worked toward has paid off."
Making the accomplishment more impressive is that it was reached despite many bumps and bruises. The most recent was an ankle injury suffered after getting stepped on during practice leading up to a Week 14 game against the Bills.
"You're always going to have an injury, a nagging injury you're going to have to play through," Thomas said. "I've had that about every year. So it's just one of my best years, I can say so."
His strong finish to the season on Sunday helped the Broncos cruise to a win over the Raiders and a first-round bye in the playoffs, offering Thomas and others an extra week to recuperate. The bye may prove even more useful considering the team's regular-season bye came way back in Week 4, more than three months ago.
"I'm looking forward to [the bye] because I will be watching (other games) and I'm going to take a couple rest days and get my body right," Thomas said. "…I can rest up my ankle, other little small injuries, that'll help. It'll feel a lot better knowing that you're not playing next week."
With the way Thomas has carved up defenses lately (three weeks in a row with at least six catches and 115 yards), No. 88 returning healthier come playoff time is a scary thought. Now the team's all-time leader for receiving yards in a single season, Thomas just keeps climbing. But he has his sights set a little higher.
"I can't be too excited," Thomas said. "What would make it better: We go out there and win the Super Bowl. Because you can't take that from me but you can always take a record. So I'm excited, but we've still got some work to do.
"…Ain't nothing satisfying for me until we win the Super Bowl."
Check out the action from the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Check out the action from an explosive second half in Denver, where the Broncos coasted to a 47-14 win.