HOUSTON --One first down in the third quarter. Three three-and-outs. Nothing was going the Broncos' way early in the second half at Reliant Stadium.
All that changed on the second play of the fourth quarter. Safety Mike Adams' diving interception of a Matt Schaub pass gave the Broncos offense the ball on the Houston 28-yard line.
Two plays later, quarterback Peyton Manning hit wide receiver Eric Decker for his second touchdown pass of the game -- and 49th of the season -- to give the Broncos a 10-point lead.
It was too much for the Houston Texans to overcome, and the Broncos moved to 12-3 on the season with a 37-13 win Sunday afternoon.
"I was fortunate enough to read the quarterback's eyes and I jumped it," Adams said of his interception. "That definitely was a game-changer, and we started getting things rolling from there."
To that point, Manning went on to tie and then break the NFL single-season record for touchdown passes when he hit Decker and then tight end Julius Thomas for his 50th and 51st scoring strikes of the season.
"I really feel like it's a team accomplishment – certainly an offensive accomplishment," Manning said of the NFL record. "A lot of people played roles in this. I think it's a unique thing and a neat thing to be part of NFL history – even if it may be temporary."
The win, combined with a Kansas City loss to Indianapolis, earned the Broncos their third consecutive AFC West title and a first-round bye in the postseason.
"That's some more encouraging, good news," said Thomas, who caught Manning's record-breaking touchdown. "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."
Despite Manning's 296 passing yards in the first half, the Broncos managed just one touchdown -- a 36-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas -- while Matt Prater tacked on three field goals. Meanwhile, the defense held the Texans to six points before halftime.
After the offensive lull in the third quarter, Adams' pick jump-started the team, and 21 unanswered, fourth-quarter points put the game away for the Broncos.
A win next week in Oakland against the Raiders -- or a loss by the New England Patriots this week at Baltimore or next week versus Buffalo -- clinches the AFC's No. 1 overall seed for the Broncos and the home-field advantage that comes with it.
"We still haven't clinched the one seed," Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said. "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. So we just want to continue to build off this and continue to play our best football. We want to continue to play well and hopefully take it through the playoffs."