MANNING FINDING COMFORT IN DENVER;
*RISING UP NFL RECORD BOOKS *
PEYTON MANNING and the Denver Broncos, who are atop the AFC West with a 6-3 record, will host their long-time rivals the San Diego Chargers on Sunday (CBS, 4:25 PM ET).
In his 15th NFL campaign and first season in Denver, the four-time NFL MVP has quickly acclimated to his new teammates and developed a strong chemistry with his receivers.
Manning has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in six straight games, the longest streak in NFL history (minimum 20 att.). Through Week 10, Manning ranks second in the AFC with 2,705 passing yards and is first in the conference with 21 touchdown passes. With 295 passing yards on Sunday, Manning can become only the third player in NFL history to reach 3,000 yards in the first 10 games with a team. He can also challenge the top five for the most touchdown passes in the first 10 games with a team.
"Peyton Manning will beat you with experience," says CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback PHIL SIMMS. "He's been in control of offenses for so long. He knows the style of offense that is going to work in the NFL. He has a group of plays that he knows is going to work in the NFL. He knows them better than anybody. That is a great head start on most NFL teams. The Broncos already have it built in. It's just about them going out there and executing."
The most passing yards and touchdown passes in the first 10 games with a team:
*Through 9 games
Manning, who became the NFL's all-time leader in 300-yard passing games (69) this season and now has the most come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or overtime (48) of any quarterback since 1970, continues his rise up league's record books. On Sunday, Manning (420) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (420) for the second-most touchdown passes in NFL history.
"He has made a tremendous impact by playing the quarterback position at such a high level for so many years," says CBS Sports' NFL TODAY analyst Dan Marino.
MOST CAREER TD PASSES
With a win on Sunday, Manning can also surpass Marino (147) and tie Broncos EVP of Football Operations and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback JOHN ELWAY (148) for the second-most regular-season wins as a starter in NFL history.
MOST CAREER WINS AS STARTER
DOWN TO THE WIRE: CLOSE GAMES IMPACTING PLAYOFF RACE
This season, games are coming down to the wire.
Entering Week 11 of the 2012 NFL season, 77 games have been decided by eight points or fewer, the third-most through the first 10 weeks of a season in NFL history.
GAMES DECIDED BY EIGHT POINTS OR FEWER THRU 10 WEEKS
Additionally, 21.9 percent of NFL games this year (32 of 146) have seen the winning points scored in the final two minutes or overtime. That is the highest percentage at this point in a season since 2003.
With the standings tight and every win – and loss – impacting a team's playoff position, the importance of being able to secure a victory in a close game is magnified.
"Winning in the NFL is a week-to-week proposition," says Atlanta Falcons head coach MIKE SMITH, who is 27-11 in his career in games decided by one score. "It's a 60-minute game. We want to have guys as fresh as we possibly can in the fourth quarter because the majority of the time, games are going to come down to the fourth quarter."
Smith's Falcons are 5-1 (.833) in games decided by eight points or fewer this season, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the third-best mark in the league.
"You have to be able to win in all kinds of ways in this league," says Houston Texans head coach GARY KUBIAK, whose team is a perfect 3-0 this season in games decided by one score. "You just need to keep battling."
Of the top five teams this season with the best record in one-score games, four have a division lead. The five clubs combine for a 35-9-1 (.789) overall record.
RECORD IN ONE-SCORE GAMES
San Francisco 49ers
"Resiliency is a very good sign for your team," says Smith. "It just shows that we're never out of it. Our guys always keep a positive attitude. They keep fighting and as long as there is time on the clock, you have to have the mindset that we do. We have the mentality that we can do whatever it takes."
Smith's 27-11 (.711) record in games decided by one score is the second-best in the NFL among active head coaches, trailing only San Francisco's JIM HARBAUGH. Harbaugh, in his second season with the 49ers, is 10-2-1 (.808) in games decided by eight points or fewer.
"It's because of the heart of the players," says Harbaugh about winning close games. "Just down after down, to never tire mentally and to keep fighting. You've got to trust and believe that you can. That's the way you want them to play."
The active head coaches with the best records in one-score games (minimum 10 such games):