The popular commentary tonight and in the coming weeks is going to be all about how Peyton Manning, once again, fell short of the ultimate goal.
That’s fair, to a degree. After leading the NFL in passing and breaking records for yardage and touchdowns, Manning’s Denver Broncos could only be described as laying a giant, stinking egg at Super Bowl XLVIII. They got absolutely dominated in their 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Manning’s final stat line included 34-of-49 completions, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Most of his completions came on short routes, and the yards after catch were almost nonexistent. Seattle’s crushing defense had their way with the Broncos offense, and as their lead grew, Denver was forced to become entirely one-dimensional. When Knowshon Moreno left with a back injury, Montee Ball couldn’t get it done in his stead.
This isn’t going to be an apology for any of that. The Broncos got completely outclassed in every phase of the game – offense, defense, special teams, and even coaching.
However, it would be unfair to lay all of this at the feet of the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Two seasons removed from major neck surgery that even had him questioning if he could ever play again, Manning had the single most impressive statistical season by any passer in history. He led his team to the No. 1 seed in the league, and was within one game of becoming the first starter to win Super Bowl titles with two teams.
Football is the ultimate team game, which is why the Lombardi Trophy is headed to the Pacific Northwest. There are criticisms to be leveled at every part of the Broncos performance on Sunday evening, and they’ll have to answer those questions until September. The defense, particularly, crumbled, letting the Seahawks dominate the time of possession battle and keep Manning off the field much of the night.
Manning has plenty of faults, and he’ll be the first to admit them. But in this loss, after all he helped his team accomplish, he should still hold his head high as one of the best to ever play the game.