I have to admit, I was thinking with my heart last week when I said that vintage Peyton Manning was going to win the Super Bowl. That was pretty much the most inaccurate prediction I’ve made during the season, and I’ve been wrong like 90 percent of the time. The fact that I still get to write this column is a wonder in and of itself. But I hear they got more writers so I’m probably done now.
Anyways, enough about me and back to the Super Bowl and how the Broncos pulled off a huge upset, making the Panthers look unrecognizable in the process. The old mantra, defense wins championships, rang true for the third year in a row now. Demarcus Ware and Von Miller combined for 4.5 sacks on Cam Newton, 1.5 more sacks than they recorded on Brady in the AFC Championship Game. Cam Newton’s ability as a mobile quarterback became a non-factor as the game progressed and by the end of the game he looked beat up and exhausted from the very real pounding he took.
Not to mention the two strip sacks that Miller got off of Newton, one for a touchdown and one that set up the only offensive touchdown Denver would record. The run game was nonexistent and with the “No-Fly Zone” firing on all cylinders in the backfield, the newly-crowned MVP was forced to beat the Broncos in the air. As good a thrower as he is, most defenses would say they address Newton as a running back with a great arm and not the other way around. Wade Phillips’ ability to recognize this and force the Panthers to go to the air and take away Cam’s ability to keep plays alive with his feet was absolutely critical in this win.
But time to address quarterback play more in depth, for as bad as Cam Newton was throughout the night, Peyton Manning was just as bad in terms of actual physical play. The Sherriff’s mind is undeniably still there and he’s still an amazing shot caller, however, at 39, almost 40, he just can’t make the plays anymore. Manning’s statistics for the night were 13 for 23 passing, 141 yards, no touchdowns, a pick, and a lost fumble. The only time he found the end zone was to seal the deal with a two-point conversion with a few minutes left. Manning finished the Super Bowl with a 9.9 QBR, by far the worst QBR by any quarterback to win the Super Bowl, beating out his previous mark around 44. In short, Manning literally did just enough to win the Super Bowl.
That’s in no way written to shame the legend that is Peyton Manning, just to acknowledge that he can’t put up the same numbers we were used to seeing him manage week in and week out of his illustrious career. At almost 40, we shouldn’t expect to be seeing that from him, and it seems John Elway and Gary Kubiak knew that going into this playoff run. Make no mistake, the coaching staff and upper management always knew this team was going to be built around the defense; it just took people like me until the Super Bowl victory to accept it. Even Manning himself has consistently been on record this post season saying that they are where they are because of the defense. His own admittance of this fact appears to be a very clear indication that even he knows his days as the best QB in the league are done.
Archie Manning, Peyton’s NFL Quarterback father, stopped just short of saying he wanted his son to retire by saying he would talk to him later this week about retiring. Peyton’s mom, Olivia, very clearly went on record stating she wanted him out of the game. Every analyst in the world is saying that the Sheriff needs to hang up the cleats right now and leave the game as Super Bowl champion like only so few legends of his caliber have. At win 200, passing Brett Favre for most wins of all time with his Super Bowl victory, would that be such a bad thing?
Here’s the thing though, Manning has earned the right to decide how much risk he is willing to put himself at and keep playing. No one has ever done it better than him and while he’s not playing great, there are still ways he can be a serviceable QB option (albeit not in Denver). While it is my humble opinion he should hang it up, we can’t expect Manning to do what we want him to do. If he does decide to hang it up though, here’s to Peyton Manning, it’s been one hell of a rodeo.