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Manning on verge of benchmark

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Peyton Manning doesn't like to talk about himself. He always credits his successes and his teams' victories to those around him. Whether it was with the Colts or the Broncos, there's no doubt that the players that surrounded aided him in his development into a future Hall of Famer.

In all likelihood, Sunday's game will go down in the history books, as Manning only needs one more touchdown pass to reach 500 for his career. With that score, he will join Brett Favre in the 500 club, the only two players to reach that milestone.

When Manning reflects on the benchmark and what it means to him, he recalls the countless players throughout his career that allowed him to be so successful. With all the accolades and accomplishments he's accumulated throughout his career, the 13-time Pro Bowler still realizes football is truly a team sport, requiring all the pieces around the quarterback to mesh in order for the quarterback to be successful.

He noted that Jeff Saturday, his former center with the Colts, used to joke with him that the only reason he's thrown so many scores was the superb protection he's had.

"To tell you the truth, he's right there are so many people that have helped me along the way so I guess I think about how grateful I am to have played with some great teammates in all positions and have had excellent coaching," Manning said regarding his reflections on this achievement. "I've always been grateful and will always be indebted to that."

Manning currently sits second to Favre in both passing yards and completions as well. But the statistic he said he pays attention to most is his touchdown to interception ratio. He said that figure "usually leads to winning football games."

Head Coach John Fox calls reaching 500 touchdown passes "pretty remarkable."

"That's a heck of an accomplishment within itself," said Emmanuel Sanders. "I mean, Peyton has broken so many records, and every season he continues to break several other ones. Hopefully I'll be on the other end of catching that ball but right now Julius Thomas is hot and hopefully he stays hot."

While Sanders leads the team in receptions and yards, he is still looking for that first touchdown reception. While he would like that first scoring connection with Manning to be his 500th, he is focusing on helping his team and getting the win.

Last season, Thomas was the lucky one who caught Manning's 51st touchdown pass of the season—marking a new single-season record. But Thomas isn't concerning himself with who catches the ball. He is simply excited for his teammate.

"I don't know how it's going to end up but I'm sure that it'll be a great moment for Peyton, just another decoration on that lapel," Thomas said. "So we're definitely proud and happy for him."

Thomas, who has caught a team-high five scores this season, seems like one of the top contenders for coveted catch. Terrance Knighton likely won't be the target. But, he's still hoping for the nod.

"I hope they throw it to me," Knighton said. "The more records he breaks, the more older he realizes he's getting. I'm just happy to be a part of it and to watch him. He works hard, he expects perfection in practice from himself and other guys."

"It'll be a milestone for him. He'll probably brush it off like it's another touchdown, but I know it means a lot to him, and ultimately it's about winning. It'll mean a lot more to him to reach that milestone and leave the game with a 'W.'"

Check out the best photos from Wednesday's practice at Dove Valley.

As Manning closes in on the 500 mark, it's interesting to note that John Elway finished his career with 300 touchdown passes. Knighton said that in the 1980's and '90s, running the ball was a necessity because the rules regarding hitting receivers were very lax.

Knighton complimented both Manning and Elways' leadership and noted their similarities.

"I'm pretty sure if they protected guys the way they do now back when Elway was playing, we'd be talking about him having 600 passing touchdowns," Knighton said. "They're both the same type of guys. I think that's why this organization is so successful and this team has been successful, starting with Mr. Elway and passing that down to [Fox] and on to Peyton and the rest of the team."

Manning is accustomed to breaking records. In 2013, he broke NFL single-season records in passing yards and touchdown passes. He also set Broncos single-season records in nearly every major passing category that season.

But, reaching 500 touchdown tosses is a different kind of benchmark than those incredible records. It's the accumulation of 17 consistent, productive years. Once he reaches 500 scores, he will only be nine away from passing Favre with the most touchdown passes in NFL history.

When discussing his former coach Bruce Arians on Wednesday, Manning recalled a record that he would prefer not to have his name associated with.

"Certainly my rookie year was a tough year for our team and I still hold the NFL rookie record for interceptions, which anytime one of these rookies wants to break it, I'm all for it," Manning said laughing. "You've got to be a 16-game starter, get these guys in early, let them play."

While many Broncos would like to get their hands on that 500th touchdown ball, Manning said he hasn't received any bribes from teammates in hopes that he will send the ball their way. In typical Manning fashion, winning comes first.

"It's such a big game coming off the bye week and it's a tough stretch for us, we are kind of in the second quarter of our season," Manning said. "Whatever we got to do to win this football game. If Montee [Ball] wants to run for five touchdowns and we don't throw any and we win the game I can assure you I'm fine with that."

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