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It’s been nearly a hundred years since St. Louis University quarterback Bradbury Robinson completed the first legal forward pass for 20 yards in 1906.
The forward pass, which made its initial development through Native Americans under Glenn “Pop” Warner, was created to make a vicious game safer. With the “flying wedge” legal, 18 college and high school players died during the 1905 season.
The evolution of the forward pass hit another landmark on Sunday as the Denver Broncos completed a record-smashing season through the air and on the scoreboard.
Needing 18 points to set the NFL’s single-season scoring record in Oakland Sunday, the Broncos sailed by the 589 points set by the 2007 New England Patriots with a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos led 31-0 at halftime and sealed home-field advantage for the playoffs as the No. 1 seed with the 34-14 victory over the Raiders.
Denver became the NFL’s first 600-point team, setting the record at 606 points for the season.
Like all season long, Manning systematically dominated his opponent on Sunday. And with Drew Brees’ single-season record of 5,476 yards in sight, Manning simply completed 25 of his 28 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. He broke Brees’ record with a 5-yard pass to Thomas with 13 seconds left in the first half for 5,477 yards. The Broncos scored on all five first-half possession before Manning gave way to backup Brock Osweiler in the second half with the single-season passing and passing touchdown record of 55.
Manning broke Tom Brady’s record of 50 touchdowns in Houston last week and tacked on four more Sunday for good measure.
Pop Warner would have been impressed by his fellow namesake quarterback Kurt Warner’s prolific, 4,830-yard season in 2001 with the St. Louis Rams that kicked off the newest trend of high-powered passing offenses. Warner’s numbers ranked second all-time that year behind the gold standard 5,084 yards set by Dan Marino with the Dolphins in 1984.
Since Warner’s 2001 season, six different quarterbacks have posted 10 seasons with more passing yards. Drew Brees has four of the top seven passing seasons, Matt Stafford has two while Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Eli and Peyton Manning each throwing for more yards than Warner.
Peyton Manning is the new standard after completing 450 of 659 passes for 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His eight games of four touchdowns or more is an NFL record. Peyton Manning, Marino, Sid Luckman and Cecil Isbell are the only quarterbacks to break the single-season passing yards and touchdown records in the same season.
The Broncos broke the record for touchdowns in a season at 76. Five players caught 60 or more passes and five players scored at least 10 touchdowns.
Bradbury Robinson led St. Louis University to an 11-0 victory that day. They eventually outscored their opponents 407-11 that season.
That’s when defenses didn’t know what was coming.
Defenses know what’s coming from Manning. And, statistically, there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
At age 37, with four neck surgeries and the entire 2011 season with the Colts wiped out by one of the surgeries, Manning is on pace to surpass Brett Favre as the NFL’s career passing record of 71,838 yards. Manning has 64,964 yards and would likely pass Favre as a 39-year-old in the 2015 season.
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