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Peyton's Take: Manning shines on festive day

DENVER -- On a day that was chock-full of big plays, falling records and more, Peyton Manning was unsurprisingly at the center of it all.

As it turns out, blitzing the 17-year veteran isn't such a good idea.

In the first half alone, Manning threw three touchdowns and racked up 282 passing yards, tied his career-long with an 86-yard TD pass and even made his eighth career tackle. The second half brought 21 more pass attempts and 197 more yards, along with another touchdown, as the Broncos pulled away for a 41-20 win.

Of course, we can't forget a few milestones that fell along the way: Manning's long-expected 500th career touchdown pass arrived in the first quarter, but No. 18's performance the rest of the game helped set a career-high with 479 passing yards, moving him into a tie with Dan Marino for the most 400-yard passing games in NFL history with 13.

And, ho-hum, the Broncos set a franchise record for most total yardage in a game (568) despite getting just 92 yards of that gaudy total on the ground.

"Obviously it was a festive locker room right there because we won a big ball game against a good football team," Manning said. "Anything that comes along the way, I really accept it on behalf of a number of players."

The offensive production was certainly a team effort, but it's hard to turn the focus away from the future Hall of Famer who seems to be setting new benchmarks on a weekly basis.

The moment everyone was waiting for didn't take long. Manning found Julius Thomas in the right corner of the end zone late in the first quarter, putting the Broncos up 7-3 and Manning up to 500 career touchdowns.

"I guess you can't help but just take a couple moments and you go down memory lane a little bit," Manning said of reaching the benchmark. "I don't think there's any players still playing (who were playing) when I threw my first touchdown, but it's interesting, two coaches on Arizona's sideline were both there my first game when I threw my first touchdown: Tom Moore and Bruce Arians. And I give both of those men a lot of credit for helping me improve as a quarterback."

After picking up the inevitable 500th TD, Manning kept right on throwing, heading to halftime with 29 pass attempts while the Broncos' run game struggled to gain much traction against stacked defensive boxes.

"We knew it was going to be a passing game," Manning said. "We knew there were going to be some incompletions, we knew there were going to be some kind of ugly series. But we thought if we just stayed aggressive, we would get our big plays, and that's what we did."

The biggest of those would be the 86-yarder to Demaryius Thomas down the left sideline, which matched the longest pass play in Manning's career. The one-play 11-second TD drive put the Broncos up 21-13 as halftime neared, but it also set the stage for more big passes in the second half. Manning noted that it opened up the defense for more underneath throws, where Welker, Sanders and both Thomases continued to pick up solid gains.

With a strong finish that produced 17 fourth-quarter points, the five-time MVP finished with more yards than in any of the other 243 games in his career.

"That's something we talked about in the first three games: We haven't finished late in the game," Manning said. "We were fortunate to win two of them but didn't win the last one, so we probably definitely won the fourth quarter today and finished the game we wanted to."

Even after Manning's platter of records and Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker each tackling their own milestones, there is certainly more history to be made on the horizon.

Manning reached 500 touchdowns in 49 fewer games than Brett Favre, the only other member of the 500-TD club. In related news, it might be just a week or two before Manning eclipses Favre's career total of 508 and moves to the top of the all-time list.

Manning said he actually hasn't kept many of the footballs he's thrown for touchdowns over the years because "receivers always kept them," but he said he will probably hold on to No. 500. When he passes Favre, perhaps The Pro Football Hall of Fame will ask for that ball to be sent to Canton, as it has for a few of Manning's others.

View photos from during the Broncos' home game against the Cardinals.

"I donate them, but I put on there, I put a little contract," Manning said with a smile. "When Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers breaks it, give me the ball back and I'll have something to play with in the backyard with my kids."

The assumption that his gaudy accomplishments may not last long might reflect Manning's humility as much as anything. After so many productive years, there will surely be many more touchdowns to come in No. 18's career. He's mentioned several times in the past few weeks that the routine statistical checkpoints remind him of his age as much as anything, saying Sunday with a laugh, "Somebody asked me if for my first, did we wear leather helmets, so that was a nice free cheapshot there."

But the 38-year-old still appreciates the individual successes in the way they've contributed to his teams' successes.

"I don't think I've thrown a lot of touchdowns that didn't mean something," Manning said. "Any ones that I've thrown usually resulted in helping our team try to win the game or win the game. So I think about it that way, that it helped the team."

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