DENVER — The best part of Peyton Manning's big day was getting to share the spotlight with some of his best friends.
Manning joined Brett Favre in the NFL's most exclusive club with his 500th touchdown toss Sunday as the Broncos handed the Cardinals their first loss, 41-20.
"Football is the ultimate team game, and so I guess one man has to accept (the TD landmark), and I really accept it on behalf of a lot of coaches and teammates," Manning said.
Manning threw for 479 yards and four scores, moving him within five of Favre's record 508 touchdown passes.
After getting his touchstone touchdown — a 7-yard dart to tight end Julius Thomas — out of the way early, Manning helped Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker make history, too.
Demaryius Thomas set a franchise record with 226 yards on eight catches, beating Shannon Sharpe's mark of 214 yards set against Kansas City in 2002. Welker's seven receptions moved him past former Bronco Rod Smith for the most catches by an undrafted player. He has 854, five more than Smith caught for Denver from 1995-2006.
"I still can't believe he was undrafted, because that man can play some ball," Demaryius Thomas said.
Welker's record-breaker came on the last play on the first half, something Manning called "kind of a ha-ha moment for scouting, for not drafting him. So, whoever was a general manager in 2004, those guys ought to send him an apology letter."
Demaryius Thomas caught touchdown passes of 31 and 86 yards, and his 77-yard TD was nullified on a chop block by Julius Thomas that put defensive end Calais Campbell out of the game with a right knee injury.
Left tackle Ryan Clady was engaged with Campbell and was whistled for the flag. But Julius Thomas crashed low into Campbell and drew the wrath of Arizona coach Bruce Arians.
"I've been coaching for 37 years, it's the dirtiest play I've seen," Arians fumed. "It was a flat chop block and put (Campbell) out of the game. I know (Broncos coach) John Fox, great coach and great guy. Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn't going to do it when (Campbell is) going to miss three or four weeks on a blatant chop block."
Campbell's strained MCL added to an afternoon in which the Cardinals surrendered 568 yards, their most since 1973, and saw fill-in quarterback Drew Stanton leave with a concussion.
Manning's 500th touchdown throw came in his 244th regular-season game, 49 fewer games than it took Favre to reach the mark. It came against two of his mentors: Arians, his first QB coach in 1998, and Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore, his offensive coordinator during his 13 seasons in Indianapolis.
"I give both of those men a lot of credit for helping me improve as a quarterback," Manning said.
Footballs from Manning's milestone TDs usually end up in his receiver's trophy cases, but he kept this one. "I'll probably keep it in a bag somewhere," said Manning, adding he was sure his 3-year-old son would get to it soon and play with it in the mud.
Before leaving, Campbell, a 300-pound defensive end, picked off Manning's screen pass to Montee Ball and rumbled to the 5-yard line before Manning tripped him.