Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reached yet another statistical milestone on Sunday with his 500th career touchdown pass, joining Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to achieve that mark. He hit the milestone with a short pass out to the right flat to Broncos tight end Julius Thomas.
The score came in his 244th career regular season game and on his 8,573rd pass attempt, easily beating Favre for the quickest player to reach the 500-touchdown mark. Favre recorded his 500th career touchdown pass in his 293rd game on his 9,924th pass attempt in a loss to the New York Jets on October 11, 2010. Favre finished his career with 508 touchdown passes, a number that Manning will likely eclipse this season if he remains healthy.
Manning's ascent to the top of the passing touchdown leader board has hardly been unexpected. He reached each of the 100, 200, 300 and 400-touchdown marks in fewer games than Favre, and has shown few signs of slowing down. Even at the age of 38 Manning is still at the top of his game. Entering Week 5 he had the league's highest Total QBR (85.7), and is attempting to join John Elway as the oldest quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl. Elway was also 38 years old when he led the 1998 Broncos team to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Many people didn't know what to expect when Manning joined the Broncos in the spring of 2012 after he missed the entire 2011 season following neck surgery. He has definitely proved his skeptics wrong so far, reaffirming his place among the elite quarterbacks in the league over the last three seasons, even as he approaches the age of 40. Last year, Manning set single-season NFL records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards passing in what was arguably the best statistical season of any quarterback in league history. He earned his record fifth Associated Press NFL MVP Award, falling one vote short of a unanimous selection.
Manning spent his first 14 NFL seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, where he developed a special chemistry with his two favorite receivers, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Harrison caught 112 of Manning's 500 touchdown passes, the most of any player, and nearly twice as many as Manning's second favorite target in Wayne (67). Harrison was on the receiving end of Manning's first touchdown pass (Sept. 6, 1998) and his 100th touchdown pass (Nov. 11, 2001), while Wayne caught his 200th (Nov. 21, 2004).
Manning still trails Favre in the major statistical career passing categories but appears poised to hold nearly every record if he can play into his 40s. Favre compiled an all-time best 71,838 passing yards in his career, a mark that Manning could surpass next season with ease. Manning is also within distance of Favre's career record for completions (6,300) and attempts (10,169), likely needing at least two more full seasons after 2014 to reach those marks.
Regardless of where Manning ends up in the record books, there is no doubt that he is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. In the NFL's 95-year history, 1,249 different players have thrown a touchdown pass, but Manning is one of just two players to reach the 500-touchdown mark.