When Peyton Manning walked into MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII, he had the chance to not only win a second career title, but to cement his spot as the greatest quarterback to ever pick up a football. Unfortunately when Manning left New York after the game, any chance of becoming the GOAT was not only hurt, but was thrown out the window entirely.
A first glance, at the scoreboard shows a dominating Seattle Seahawks 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos, but even the scoreline does not tell the whole story. The Seahawks were simply too overpowering on defense for Manning, and they were ruthless on offense in carving up a Broncos defense that had gradually improved throughout the season.
Of course, Manning cannot determine what his defense does, but no reasonable man can truly justify his performance on Sunday night. He was out of sync from the first play as the snafu with the snap count resulted in a fumble and a safety, and things did not get better from there.
Moving forward, Manning looked a bit rattled and apparently heard footsteps repeatedly as he overthrew multiple receivers. He gifted two interceptions to Seattle that helped dig a 22-0 halftime whole. From there, the game was practically a wash, and despite finishing 34 of 49 passing for 280 yards, it must be conceded that Manning looked like a guy who was affected by the big stage, and in the worst way possible.
One bad game certainly does not mean that Manning does not belong in the pantheon of great quarterbacks, as his five career NFL MVP Awards, 64,964 passing yards and 491 touchdowns will place him on nearly any Mount Rushmore of quarterbacks. Furthermore, his innovation of the no-huddle offense leaves an additional lasting mark on the NFL that will affect the game for years to come, and ensure that Manning is talked about with reverence moving forward.
That said, his performance in Super Bowl XLVIII does remove him from being the greatest quarterback ever. This is not a knock on his regular season accomplishments, but a nod to the fact that to be the best, you have to show up during the biggest games. Guys such as Joe Montana and Tom Brady will far outlive Manning in the conversation because of their excessive ring totals, and the fact that they have never been embarrassed on any big stage like Manning was.
Fair or not, this game will live on longer than any of the 55 regular season touchdowns the quarterback threw in 2013, and will not be reconciled even if he comes back and wins the Super Bowl in 2015.