KANSAS City, Mo. --Wide receiver Eric Decker kept catching touchdowns until he caught up with the Broncos franchise record for receiving touchdowns in a single game.
Then he caught one more.
Decker's four touchdown catches helped power the Broncos to a 35-28 win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. In becoming just the sixth NFL player since 2000 to record four receiving touchdowns in a game, Decker helped Denver rally back from a 14-point deficit in a crucial AFC West showdown.
"I'm just thankful for the game and happy that we won again in the fashion we did because it says a lot about the character in this locker room," Decker said.
With the stakes heightened by division implications and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas leaving the game briefly with an early injury, Decker was called upon to help spark a Broncos offense playing into the teeth of a raucous road environment.
He came through in a big way, catching eight passes for 174 yards – and, of course, finding his share of the end zone for one Kansas City evening.
"Eric had a great day today, four touchdowns, I believe that's the team record for us," Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "And we needed all of them so it's great to see it."
The scores came on different routes and from all different angles, but the one constant was that they all concluded in the end zone – and they all proved pivotal to the game's final outcome.
"Once you start getting into a rhythm, you build some confidence," Decker said. "For me, it's getting into that rhythm. Have fun and just remembering that it's football – that's what I got back to today was just playing, letting things come to me, not forcing things."
Decker's first touchdown came on a 41-yard strike from quarterback Peyton Manning on the first play of
the second quarter, tying the game at 7-7 and answering the Chiefs' initial score.
When the Broncos fell behind again, Decker was there with a handful of answers.
Though he didn't find the end zone, his 42-yard reception from Manning with the Broncos trailing 21-7 midway through the second quarter was equally important. The catch moved the ball to the Kansas City 3-yard line and three plays later, Manning threw a touchdown pass to running back Knowshon Moreno that closed the Chiefs lead to 21-14.
"That close," Decker laughed when asked about nearly managing a fifth score on the play.
Although Decker had no shortage of big plays early on, he was still saving his best for the second half.
His second touchdown – a 37-yard rainbow into the end zone from Manning – tied the game at 21 on the Broncos' opening drive of the second half.
On the ensuing Denver possession, Manning hit Decker in the back of the end zone to give the Broncos a
28-21 lead – something Denver would never relinquish.
And as the touchdowns began to pile up, Decker was spurred on by his teammates – like running back Knowshon Moreno – to keep the record-breaking performance coming.
"When I said, 'Hey, I need another one,' after the third one, he said, 'I'll get you another one,'" Moreno recalled.
He made good on that promise.
Decker got free in the end zone one last time, catching a 1-yard touchdown from Manning on third-and-goal on the second play of the fourth quarter – a score that capped a 10-play, 95-yard drive, and a score that ultimately proved to be the game's deciding touchdown.
Decker credited Manning with helping make it all possible.
"It was easier, I guess, just because of the balls (Manning) throws," Decker said.
Manning pointed out that the Chiefs' plans for defending wide receiver Wes Welker helped open opportunities for Decker – and that his receiver answered the bell in a big way.
"We knew that to double Wes would be a scenario so sometimes Eric was going to draw single coverage," Manning said. "We were able to get down the field, protection held up and allowed us to get down the field and Eric was awesome. Really, hats off to him the way he played today."
Decker credited his fellow receivers with helping allow him to get open so many times, as well.
"It makes it a lot easier when we've got some of the best receivers as far as Welker and DT on your side. They cover a lot of ground," he said. "Today, I just had an opportunity to make some plays and I did."
When the dust finally settled, Decker walked away from Arrowhead Stadium with a performance to remember – and one that his teammates will likely remember, as well.
"A huge one. That might be one of the biggest (games) I've ever seen," Thomas said. "I take my hat off to 'Deck' because he's been working hard. He felt like he hadn't been playing so well but I think he had. I take my hat off to him because he played his butt off today."
For Decker, however, it was ultimately the final outcome on the scoreboard that made Sunday special for the Broncos.
"This game in general was huge for us as far as a division rival, coming off a loss, this was for the lead in our division," he said. "And this time of the year, that's what it's about, taking control of your division, setting yourself up for the playoffs. Again, it showed a lot of character of the guys in the locker room the way we battled back and finished the game."