This was the kind of passing clinic for which Peyton Manning has become famous.
The four-time league MVP lifted the Denver Broncos to the top of the AFC on Sunday by throwing for five touchdowns and 403 yards in a 35-28 at Kansas City. Denver (10-2) swept two games in three weeks against its AFC West rival and ensured that by winning out, the Broncos will have home-field advantage in the conference playoffs for the second straight season.
"Sometimes, when you play a team close to back-to-back, there are some ideas that are fresh in your mind," Manning said. "We thought there were some chances to get down the field in that first game that we never got to. We wanted to get to some of those plays."
Manning's main man on those plays was Eric Decker. He had four touchdowns on his eight receptions for a career-high 174 yards for the Broncos. On each of Decker's TDs, the ball was thrown perfectly by Manning, who leads the NFL with 4,125 yards passing, the most through the first 12 games of a season. He's in the midst of his 13th career 4,000-yard season, extending his league record, and it was Manning's eighth career game with at least five touchdown passes, tied with Drew Brees for the most in NFL history.
"I think he showed people why he's so great," Decker said. "How we run our offense, we're very versatile as far as going inside, outside, left, right, whatever it may be."
The Chiefs jumped to a 21-7 lead, but the Broncos answered with 28 points. Alex Smith threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns for Kansas City, which has dropped three straight after winning its first nine. Knile Davis returned a kickoff 108 yards for another score.
Also Sunday, it was New England 34, Houston 31; Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 6; Philadelphia 24, Arizona 21; Cincinnati 17, San Diego 10; Indianapolis 22, Tennessee 14; San Francisco 23, St. Louis 13; Minnesota 23, Chicago 20, OT; Atlanta 34, Buffalo 31, OT; the New York Giants 24, Washington 17; Jacksonville 32, Cleveland 28; and Miami 23, the New York Jets 3.
The holiday weekend began with Detroit (7-5) beating Green Bay (5-7) 40-10, Dallas (7-5) over Oakland (4-8) 31-24, and Baltimore (6-6) downing Pittsburgh (5-7) 22-20.
On Monday night, a matchup for top record in the NFC has New Orleans (9-2) at Seattle (10-1).
PATRIOTS 34, TEXANS 31
At Houston, the Patriots (9-3) came on again in the second half to extend the Texans' franchise-record slide to 10 games. Tom Brady threw for 371 yards and two scores, and Stephen Gostkowski made two 53-yard field goals in the fourth quarter.
"I wish we could start fast and put the foot on the gas pedal the whole way," Brady said.
Gary Kubiak coached from the sideline for the first time since suffering a mini-stroke Nov. 3. He missed one game before working the last two games from the booth.
New England overcame a 24-point first-half deficit last week to beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime. The Patriots trailed by 10 at halftime in this one and the lead changed five times in a wild second half.
Ben Tate ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns for the Texans (2-10), who haven't won since Sept. 15.
PANTHERS 27, BUCCANEERS 6
At Charlotte, N.C., the Panthers won their record eighth straight regular-season game when Cam Newton threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score.
Newton threw touchdown passes to Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr. and leaped over the pile for another score as the Panthers (9-3) outgained the Buccaneers 426-206. Newton has thrown for 13 touchdown passes and run for five scores during the Panthers' current win streak.
"There is no roof, no sky," defensive end Greg Hardy said. "We're going up. Every person on this team, every coach on this team has the same mentality right now. I feel like it's contagious. Fans are getting it. They feel like they can't be beat."
Carolina's defense came in allowing the fewest points in the league and flexed its muscles again, forcing two turnovers and sacking rookie Mike Glennon four times to snap a three-game winning streak for Tampa Bay (3-9). Glennon had thrown a touchdown pass in an NFL record eight straight games to start his career.
EAGLES 24, CARDINALS 21
At Philadelphia, Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes, two to Zach Ertz, and the Eagles (7-5) won their fourth straight to remain tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East.