Update: The league has announced that it will not take Manning's yardage record away.
"The stats crew at the game scored this play as a forward pass," league spokesman Michael Signora told Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. "During the course of a season, there are many similar plays which could be reviewed by the Elias Sports Bureau, the league's official statistician. In this case, the determination of Elias is that the fairest resolution is for the ruling of the on-site stats crew to stand."
The Elias Sports Bureau reviews game tape and stat sheets for the NFL after every week of games and will occasionally alter all kinds of things, from yardage numbers to sack totals. And it's possible that when the league reviews the Denver Broncos' 34-14 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Peyton Manning's single-season yardage record could be in a bit of danger.
With 1:28 left in the first quarter of the game, Manning threw what was called a seven-yard pass to receiver Eric Decker on 1st-and-5 from the Oakland 49-yard line. However, in the video below (H/T to SportsGrid via Reddit NFL), it's clear that Manning threw the ball backward, which makes it a lateral. With that in mind, Decker should technically be credited with a seven-yard run.
(GIF via The Big Lead)
And under those circumstances, Manning didn't break Drew Brees' single-season passing yardage record by one yard. He would have 5,470 yards, not 5,477, and Brees would still have the mark with the 5,476 yards he threw for in 2011.
As the stats stand now, Manning threw for 266 yards on 25 completions before he was pulled at the half to preserve him for the playoffs. The game wasn't competitive and the Broncos were going to wrap up the AFC's top seed whether Manning finished the game or not. Nobody could criticize head coach John Fox after the fact, but would Manning have come out for the second half with that record still on the line? Given Manning's keen awareness of NFL history, it's certainly feasible.
Fox was actually asked that very question on Monday.
“That’s hard to say. What was very positive was I thought we played one of our better halves of football that put us in a position where we could do different things. Number one, all those things are great—those individual accomplishments, team accomplishments—but not at the risk of putting a player at risk. So I don’t know if I’ve answered your question, I’m just kind of telling you what would go through our minds in that situation.”
Even if the yardage record is taken away, Manning still finished the 2013 regular season with a league-record 55 touchdown passes (though, technically, he should have 54), and the Broncos set the NFL's new pace by scoring 606 points on the season.