Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning comes off the field after throwing the 500th touchdown pass of his career.
DENVER – The Cardinals had a pretty good idea Peyton Manning would set one prestigious record against them on Sunday. They certainly didn't want to see the second.
The future Hall of Fame quarterback reached 500 career touchdown passes on a seven-yard scoring strike to tight end Julius Thomas on the Broncos' opening possession, but since Manning entered the game at 499, holding him without a passing score was never expected.
It was his continued dominance which spelled doom for the Cardinals in the 41-20 loss.
Manning finished 31-of-47 for a career-high 479 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. All career days are not equal, and when a player like Manning surpasses all of his other impressive yardage performances, it's a bad sign for the opponent.
"He's not in the history books for nothing," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "The guy is awesome. He's everything that everyone
speaks about him. … He just came out here and lit us up."
Manning's main target was wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who caught eight passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, setting the team's franchise-record for receiving yards in a game after accumulating only 141 yards in the first three games of the season.
"Somebody asked me: 'Did y'all challenge Demaryius?'" Manning said. "Demaryius challenged himself during the bye week. He knew he wasn't playing up to his capabilities."
Thomas did most of his damage against cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who called it easily the worst game of the career. But there was plenty of blame to go around, as Emmanuel Sanders topped 100 yards receiving, Julius Thomas had six catches for 66 yards and two scores and Wes Welker added seven catches for 58 yards.
"When you give up 230 damn yards to any damn receiver, it's not your best day," Cromartie said. "No matter how you look at it, it's not my best day. We have to regroup."
Manning connected on a couple deeper passes, but much of the yardage came from the receivers running after the catch. Demaryius Thomas raced down the sideline after an intermediate reception for his 86-yard score and turned a simple slant into a 31-yard touchdown by beating Cromartie off the line.
"You've got to be with them to catch them," coach Bruce Arians said. "You can't be two steps behind them. They have outstanding
weapons, and whether you got rubbed or not, you've still got to catch up."
The Broncos moved the ball well in both halves, but the Cardinals were able to put up some resistance early on in the form of interceptions. Cornerback Jerraud Powers had the first, his second of the season, near midfield in the second quarter, undercutting a route by Welker and nabbing a poor throw.
"Playing with Peyton for four years in Indianapolis, I kind of know what he's going to do sometimes if you watch enough film," Powers said. "I kind of baited him."
Defensive end Calais Campbell added the second when he read a screen pass and picked the ball off, leading to a touchdown which cut the deficit to 14-13 with 4:37 remaining before halftime. Manning and the Broncos answered with Demaryius Thomas' long touchdown before the half, and then scored the final 17 points when the Cardinals pulled to within 24-20 late in the third quarter.
The Cardinals entered the game allowing only 15 points per contest but couldn't handle Manning and his vast array of weapons on this day.
"The NFL is real humbling," Powers said. "You can go and feel like you're up here and then go (down). We went 3-1 in the first quarter of the season and now it's on to the second quarter and getting ready for Washington. We just have to learn from this and move on."