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Peyton Manning reaches 51 TD passes, Broncos clinch AFC West

peyton AP

Peyton Manning once again owns the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season.

Manning threw four touchdown passes today, giving him 51 for the season, topping Tom Brady’s former single-season record of 50, set in 2007. Manning previously owned the record for three years, having thrown 49 touchdown passes in 2004.

With Manning’s passing leading the way, the Broncos easily beat the Texans, and with the win (and the Chiefs’ loss to the Colts), the Broncos have clinched the AFC West. If the Patriots lose to the Ravens, the Broncos will also clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

It was a great game for Manning, who had a whopping 296 passing yards in the first half, and the record-setting performance caps a great season for Manning, who will almost certainly win the fifth MVP award of his NFL career. The big question facing Manning now is whether he can also win his second Super Bowl ring.

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Lions aren’t looking to make moves at trade deadline

Martin Mayhew AP

Few have been as aggressive at the in-season trade deadline at the Lions, but it doesn’t seem that’s going to continue.

Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew told reporters he didn’t anticipate doing anything by Tuesday’s deadline. He’s done three such deals in

“I know we kind of talk to everybody around the league, get calls from different teams and things like that,” Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “But I don’t anticipate us making any moves at the trade deadline.”

He’s presided over three deals since taking over in 2008, including sending wide receiver Roy Williams to Dallas.

But with some wondering about the future of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as he enters the final year of his contract, Mayhew said that wasn’t a consideration.

“I don’t have any plan to trade anybody, leave it at that,” he said.

Of course, plans can change. But unlike years past, the Lions seem fairly stable at the moment, with the league’s best defense, a quarterback who is taking care of the ball and a coach in Jim Caldwell who has brought his calm touch to an underachieving team.

At the moment, things are going well for the Lions, so messing with the formula might not be the best play.

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Peyton Manning does not approve of your scoreboard shenanigans

Peyton Manning AP

Philip Rivers laughed and played along with the joke.

Peyton Manning, however, seemed serious about the scoreboard shenanigans in Denver last night.

During the fourth quarter of the Broncos win, the stadium video board operator flashed shots of Rivers and Manning, causing the crowd to alternate between boos and hosannas. According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, this went on for a bit before someone in the organization told them to knock it off.

“I really don’t know how to respond to that,” Rivers said. “Other than if you had told me when I was 10 years old they would show me in front of 75,000 and get booed, and Peyton Manning in the same clip and get cheered, I’d say that’s pretty awesome.”

Manning did not share those feelings.

“I’ve got to have a talk with our scoreboard operator,” Manning said. “He’s playing music and showing players dancing and getting the crowd fired up when we have the ball. I don’t think he should be doing that.

“And I don’t think he should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought that was kind of disrespectful. Our fans our great, our fans are loud, but our scoreboard operator, it wasn’t his best night.”

So get it straight, Mr. Scoreboard Operator. You’re going to have to tighten up your game. Or show more Buick and Papa John’s ads as punishment.

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Peyton Manning shouts “Romo!” before snap, hands off

Peyton Manning AP

As Denver tried to run out the clock in the final three minutes of Thursday night’s game vs. San Diego, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning barked signals near the line of scrimmage.

Then, he shouted a word — a surname, it sure seemed — that caught the attention.

“Romo!” Manning barked, as this NFL.com clip confirms.

A few seconds later, Manning handed off to tailback Juwan Thompson, who gained five yards up the middle, giving Denver its final first down in a 35-21 victory.

Was “Romo” a reference to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo? Or was it a nod to Giants pitcher Sergio Romo? Or could it be a shout out to United Kingdom clothier The Romo Group?

Anyways, in the final minutes, Manning was also heard barking “Elway! Elway!” before the snap. This would figure to be a reference to former Broncos quarterback / current G.M. John Elway. “Apple!” and old-standard “Omaha!” were also yelled by Manning.

These 21st century microphones sure are powerful.

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Jahleel Addae says he had a stringer, not a concussion

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers safety Jahleel Addae appeared to come up woozy after a play in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Addae charged up to deliver a hit to Broncos running back Juwan Thompson and came away from the play noticeably affected.

It appeared as though Addae may have suffered a concussion on the play. However, Addae says he was evaluated on the sidelined and cleared to return to the game.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Addae said he suffered a stringer on the play instead.

Addae had four tackles for the Chargers in the 35-21 loss to Denver.

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Manning, Sanders lead Broncos to 35-21 victory over Chargers

Sanders Getty Images

Peyton Manning tossed three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders, Juwan Thompson rushed for two scores and the Denver Broncos cruised to a 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Ronnie Hillman also rushed for 109 yards for Denver as the Broncos offense looked in fine form against the Chargers.

Manning connected with Sanders for touchdowns of 2, 3, and 31 yards as the Broncos took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. Thompson’s first score of the night extended the score to 28-7 with 7:34 left to play in the third quarter.

Sanders finished with nine catches on the night for 120 yards and three touchdowns while Demaryius Thomas also eclipsed the 100-yard mark with eight grabs for 105 yards for Denver.

The Broncos completely shut down the rushing offense of the Chargers Thursday night and forced Philip Rivers to do everything for San Diego offensively. Branden Oliver carried 13 times for just 36 yards on the night with Donald Brown carrying once for 8 yards. Rivers was the Chargers leading rusher due to one 17-yard scramble until Oliver broke a 23-yard run on the game’s final play.

Rivers 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive gave the Chargers some life. However, the Broncos answered right back with another touchdown drive to extend the lead to 35-14.

Rivers and Gates hooked up again on a 10-yard touchdown to again cut the deficit to 14 points with 9:31 left to play. A missed 53-yard field goal by Brandon McManus gave the Chargers a change to further cut down Denver’s lead, but Rivers was intercepted by Rahim Moore to all but seal the win for Denver.

San Diego had some questionable officiating decisions go against them that significantly hurt their chances. A fumble by kick returner Andre Caldwell was overturned upon replay review despite video showing the ball being ripped out of Caldwell’s hands by San Diego before his elbow hit the ground. In addition, the Broncos scored a fourth quarter touchdown one play after an interception by Eric Weddle in the end zone was negated by a defensive holding penalty on Marcus Gilchrist.

But Denver was clearly the better team on Thursday night and appears to clearly be the best team in the AFC right now.

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Chargers cut Denver’s lead to 28-14

Antonio Gates AP

After three straight Denver touchdowns turned a 7-7 game into a 28-7 deficit for San Diego on Thursday night, the visiting Chargers finally counter-punched.

Antonio Gates‘ four-yard fourth-down TD pass from Philip Rivers cut the Broncos’ lead to 28-14 with 2:39 left in the third quarter in Denver. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a leaping 26-yard reception by Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd. However, Floyd appeared to suffer an arm injury on the play and went inside for medical treatment.

Rivers has completed 24-of-34 passes against the Broncos with a pair of scores, but nothing has come easy for San Diego, which has largely dinked-and-dunked in the passing game.

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Malcom Floyd heads to locker room after impressive catch

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd made a stellar reception leaping between two Denver Broncos defenders.

Floyd landed hard after hauling the pass and headed into the locker room shortly after with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Floyd caught two passes for 42 yards on the night for San Diego, the final one covering 26 yards before heading inside to get further evaluation.

The Chargers announced that Floyd was probable to return to the game, which is a big boost for San Diego as they attempt to rally from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m. ET: Floyd returned to the game for the Chargers on their ensuing offensive possession.

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Manning to Sanders for third TD of night extends Broncos lead

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Peyton Manning connected with Emmanuel Sanders on a 3-yard touchdown pass to extend the Denver Broncos lead to 21-7 over the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It was the third touchdown of the night between Manning and Sanders. The two players hooked up for a 2-yard touchdown and a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Broncos a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Manning led Denver on a six-play, 51-yard scoring drive with the touchdown to Sanders extending the Broncos lead.

Sanders has six catches for 92 yards and three scores on the night for Denver. Manning is 18 of 25 for 221 yards.

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Danny Smith: Dri Archer going through “growing pains” as returner

Dri Archer AP

As a third-round pick and the fastest player in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine,  rookie Dri Archer will get every chance to become a return ace for the Steelers.

However, it’s been a rough go on kickoffs thus far for the Kent State product.

In five regular season games, Archer has returned just 1-of-9 kickoffs beyond his own 20-yard-line, and he’s yet to even reach the 25 on any return. He also has one punt return for two yards.

Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith believes Archer is going through “growing pains” as he learns his craft, especially as it pertains to using other elements of his game than speed. But he also believes the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer is “going to be a good football player” once everything clicks.

“There are a lot of fast guys working at McDonald’s that can’t play this game. There just is,” Smith said Thursday, according to the club. “There are a lot of things that you have to do, and he’s learning those things, and it’s a maturation process.

“I love the guy. I’ll never give up on him because he works.”

Smith believes Archer “presses” with an eye on making a big play, something the long-time special teams coach believes is to be expected.

But Smith also expects Archer to break out at some point.

“As soon as that kid makes a big play we’ll all be jumping on the bandwagon,” Smith said. “We’ll all be celebrating, ‘Hey he’s what we thought he was.’ It will come. It really will. I’ve seen it too many times. (It’s) because of his work habits and because of his athleticism and because of his want to I think he’s going to be fine. And the sooner the better.”

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Broncos dodge bullet, with help from officials

McAulay Getty Images

After the Chargers knotted Thursday night’s game at seven, Broncos kick returner Andre Caldwell appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff at the Denver 26.  The ruling on the field was indeed a fumble, with a recovery by Chargers tight end Ladarius Green.

All turnovers are subject to replay review.  After referee Terry McAulay went under the hood, with real-time assistance from V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, McAulay reverse the ruling on the field:  “After review, the runner’s elbow was down and in complete control over the football.”

But that’s not what the video showed.  The ball was being ripped out before the elbow hit.

The ruling on the field becomes even more important in this situation.  Because the officials determined a fumble had happened, McAulay needed to see indisputable visual evidence that it hadn’t.  If anything, the clear, indisputable visual evidence showed that it had.

In other words, the evidence was strong enough to overturn a ruling on the field that Caldwell hadn’t fumbled.  Instead, the evidence erroneously was determined to be indisputable that the ball wasn’t coming out.

UPDATE 10:07 p.m. ET:  NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino has defended the decision on Twitter.  “On the fumble that was reversed the forearm was down before ball came loose,” Blandino said. “Forearm down before elbow.”  The movement of the ball before the forearm is down would seem to prevent a finding of indisputable visual evidence that the ruling of a fumble was incorrect.  Former NFL referee Mike Carey has repeatedly said during the CBS broadcast that, in his view, the outcome of the replay review was incorrect.

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Chargers even things up on Allen’s first touchdown catch of the year

Allen Getty Images

If Chargers receiver Keenan Allen ever becomes a free agent, he should sign with the Broncos.  Because in his third career game in Denver, Allen has now scored his fifth touchdown.

No. 5 in Denver also was Allen’s first of the season, coming at the tail end of a 13-play, 84-yard drive.

Allen already has seven catches for 47 yards.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 15 of 17 passes, for 118 yards.

The game is tied at seven, with 3:07 left in the first half.

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Peyton moves the mark to 511

Manning Getty Images

Another game, another football to be sent to Canton.

After 15 minutes of football with no scoring, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw his 511th career touchdown pass early in the second to receiver Emmanuel Sanders.  It came on third and goal from the two, capping a drive fueled largely by a 38-yard catch by Sanders but the Broncos in business at the San Diego 31.

Manning has completed 10 of 12 passes for 109 yards in three drives.  The Denver defense has forced a pair of punts from the Chargers.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — Thursday

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The following are the skill-position players listed on the Thursday injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded.

The final injury report for Sunday games will be released Friday, with the Monday-night injury report released Saturday.

All information is from the NFL and clubs excluding the Rams’ injury statuses, which were cited from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Byes: Giants, 49ers.

DID NOT PRACTICE

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe)

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Bills WR Chris Williams (illness).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Broncos WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Ravens WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot). — OUT

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle). — OUT

Seahawks WR Bryan Walters (concussion).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee).

Cardinals WR Josh Brown (ankle).

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ribs).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders FB Marcel Reece (quad).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Rams RB Benji Cunningham (knee).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee)

Washington QB Robert Griffin (ankle).

FULL PARTICIPATION

Bengals TE Kevin Brock (neck).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (non-injury).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

Washington RB Alfred Morris (ankle).

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Urlacher say Cutler isn’t getting the job done

Cutler Getty Images

When the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Cutler is a “pussy.”  Unless he didn’t.

On Wednesday, Urlacher didn’t call Cutler a guy who is succeeding at the position.

“We say it every year how talented Jay is, how much talent he has,” Urlacher told The Kap and Haugh Show.  “But the NFL is not a talent contest.  It’s a winning contest.  You want to win football games, that’s what it comes down to.

“If your quarterback can’t make plays in certain situations for you to win games, he’s not getting the job done.”

With $54 million guaranteed, Cutler undoubtedly is being paid to get the job done.

“Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL,” Urlacher said.  “You look at his contract, he was paid like an elite quarterback. . . .  He just hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback. You look at the Bradys, the Mannings, the Rodgerses, the Breeses.  Those guys win every year.  Even with no one around them.  [Aaron] Rodgers has no offensive line, he wins.  [Tom] Brady has no receivers, he wins.

“You look at Jay, he’s got Brandon [Marshall], Alshon [Jeffery], Matt [Forte] and a great offensive line, Martellus Bennett and they can’t seem to put it together for some reason.  I’m not sure if it’s his fault, but for some reason they can’t seem to figure it out.”

If it’s not Cutler’s fault, then whose fault is it?  Cutler is far and away the highest-paid player on the team, so it’s on him to produce at a level that will help the team win games.

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Jason Verrett active for Chargers vs. Broncos

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers are thin at cornerback tonight against the Broncos, but not as thin as they feared.

Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett is active and will play tonight despite a shoulder injury that led to fears in San Diego that he wouldn’t be able to go. That’s a big positive for the Chargers, who are without cornerback Brandon Flowers after he suffered a concussion Sunday. The Broncos are not an opponent you want to face while thin at cornerback, so having Verrett on the field is big.

In addition to Flowers, the Chargers’ inactives are CB Steve Williams, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Donald Brown, LB Manti Te’o, LB Jerry Attaochu and DE Cordarro Law.

The Broncos’ inactives are RB Montee Ball, DB Omar Bolden, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Steven Johnson, OL Ben Garland, OL Michael Schofield and DL Mitch Unrein.

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