When the topic of all-time NFL greatest quarterbacks comes up, the names usually include Joe Montana, Steve Young, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw, Brett Favre, John Unitas, John Elway, Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning, who returns to the Super Bowl for a third time in his 16-year career after the Denver Broncos brushed aside the New England Patriots, 26-16, in the AFC Championship tilt at Sports Authority Field at Mile High last Sunday.
The clash was billed as a battle between Manning and Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champ, but it turned out to be somewhat one-sided.
“I put a lot of hard work in,’’ said Manning, who passed for 400 yards and connected on 32 of 43 attempts with no interceptions. “I had a lot of people – teammates, coaches, trainers – help me along the way. We’ve definitely come a long way in two years. It’s an exciting feeling.”
Manning is the NFL’s only four-time Most Valuable Player, and will likely add a fifth, but acknowledged that Brady is capable of magic. “To keep Tom Brady on the sidelines is a good thing,’’ said Manning, who helped Indianapolis claim Super Bowl XLI, and saw his rival throw for 277 yards on 24 of 38 passes with no picks. Coming in Brady held a 10-4 edge against Manning.
Denver, the AFC’s No. 1 seed, raced to a 13-3 halftime lead, and when the game ended, the Manning clan which includes father, Archie, a star quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, brother Eli, the New York Giants’ signal-caller and two-time NFL champion and brother Cooper, all gathered in front of Peyton’s locker.
A week earlier Manning completed 25 of 36 for 230 yards with two scoring passes and an interception in the 24-17 Divisional win over the San Diego Chargers.
Named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year in 2013, Manning had what could be argued the finest single-season ever after throwing for a record 5,477 yards and an NFL-best 55 touchdowns.
Manning’s numbers have been nothing short of a miracle considering he missed the 2011 campaign after undergoing multiple neck surgeries. In some quarters there were whispers the No. 1 overall pick by the Colts in 1998 may have thrown his final pass.
But Manning is a tireless worker and wasn’t about to let that happen if he could help it. When the Colts released Manning, he was free to sign with any team. In the end he picked Denver in part because he liked what Elway, Executive Vice President of Football Operations, had in the form of weapons like Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker.
The Broncos led 10-0 with 7:50 left before the half after Manning moved Denver 93 yards on 15 plays with the capper a one-yard toss to tight end Jacob Tamme.
When Manning drove the Broncos 80 yards on 13 plays he closed the march with a three-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas and 7:52 showing in the third quarter as Denver jumped ahead by 17 points.
Super Bowl XLVIII will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and is a few weeks away, but the match between Denver and the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks already is the talk of the town.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.