HOUSTON -- Coming into this game, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would break the NFL's single-season record for passing touchdowns. The only question was, "When?"
For three quarters the Texans defense played in a way that could have won the game. They gave up a lot of yards in the first half, but only one touchdown. They did neither in the second half, holding Manning to three three-and-outs and another slightly longer drive that also resulted in a punt.
But in the fourth quarter Manning turned on the show he's broadcast all season.
"I would have to say Peyton Manning found a way there at the end," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said.
Smith was asked if that was the best version of Manning he's ever faced and he said it was.
Manning broke the touchdown record with the game soundly in hand. The Broncos led the Texans 30-13, and then Manning made it clear that winning wasn't his only goal today.
It burned at Smith, but he took it in the well-reasoned way.
"That has to raise some fight in you," Smith said. "But as a true football player, that's what football is. That's what his job is to do. He wants to be great. It's his job to try to be great, no matter how it makes anybody else feel. This is football. We're grown men. It's our job to stop them. It's his job to break records."
There wasn't one player who said publicly that Manning going for the record with the game in hand was out of line. Texans interim head coach Wade Phillips said it surprised him that they were still so aggressive.
"I was surprised, but they threw it deep late in the game," Phillips said. "But that's part of football."
Brooks Reed said he didn't see it that way, "Our job is to stop him. His job is to compete. He wants to be the greatest. He's going to go for a record. It's our job to stop him."
Shiloh Keo said simply: "They don't run the ball. Peyton Manning likes to throw it."