Meanwhile, Manning waltzed in and kept the NFL’s most potent offense of all time right on track, racking up 400 yards and two touchdowns and no picks.
But as dominant as the Denver Broncos appeared (the game wasn’t actually as close as the 26 to 16 final score indicated), questions still abound.
People are quick to point out that the Patriots defense closely resembles a practice squad in the wake of a tidal wave of injuries. They’re happy to note that the temperature at Mile High was hovering near 50 degrees all evening, leaving the questions of Manning’s ability in the cold unanswered. And of course, let’s not forget the home-field advantage the Broncos enjoyed.
Those are all fair points to make. I’m nowhere near as comfortable with how the Broncos’ strengths project in a cold weather environment as I am with the Seahawks.
But an unfair point to make is how that this Super Bowl will affect Peyton Manning’s legacy.
I’m telling you right now, it won’t. He’s the best of all time, with one ring or two.
I mentioned how sick I am of this debate already, and I promised myself I wouldn’t get on a tangent, but I’ll try and make this brief.
Manning might only have an 11-11 playoff record, but I hope people can appreciate that he was the main reason his teams have been able to appear in 22 playoff games over the past 16 years.
This is a man who broke the NFL single season touchdown record not once, but twice. A man who also holds the single season passing yardage record, is the active leader in passing touchdowns (only 17 behind Brett Favre for first all time), a 13-time Pro Bowler and a seven-time All-Pro.
A man who had major reconstructive neck surgery, lost a full year in the prime of his career and still managed to improve upon on his statistics. That’s right, his completion percentage, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, yards per attempt, etc. etc. etc. are all better over the past two seasons than they ever have been.
A man who is about to make his third Super Bowl appearance and one of only three men alive two carry two separate franchises to the promised land.
If you needed any more proof, profootballreference.com created a stat called Approximate Value, which is akin to WAR in baseball. It basically tries to assign a single number to each player to denote their value.
The active leader? Peyton Manning. The highest ranking quarterback in NFL history? Peyton Manning, tied with Brett Favre.
I’d take Manning over Favre any day. Favre holds a slight edge over Manning in a handful of all-time passing records, but he was also notorious for his gunslinger mentality and tendency to throw his team into trouble.
“Gunslinger” is the antithesis of Peyton Manning. I compare him to Greg Maddux since both seemingly have the ability to see action occur two to three plays in advanced. He’s calculated. He adapts better than anyone. He is the thinker’s quarterback.
One of the passing records Favre holds over Manning is interceptions, and he holds it by a wide margin (336 for Favre vs. 219 for Manning). Strictly based on numbers, Manning is the safer bet.
“But what about Super Bowl rings,” you ask? Teams win Super Bowls, not quarterbacks, but fair question nonetheless.
If Manning pulls out a win on Super Bowl Sunday, he’ll have two to his credit. There will still be four quarterbacks with more rings on their fingers, and plenty tied with him.
Could you seriously look me in the eyes and make the argument that Terry Bradshaw or Troy Aikman were better quarterbacks than Manning? How about Brady or Montana?
When you take their entire bodies of work into account, it’s really not even close.
That same argument could never be made on a team featuring Peyton Manning. So do you really think one more ring will make or break everything I just presented? If he losses next weekend and ends his career with only one, everything else is null and void?
Give me a break. He might not always have had the best team surrounding him, but out of any quarterback in NFL history, he is the single most dominant/valuable/efficient/’insert adjective here” that the league has ever seen.
Rant over. In my humble opinion, Manning is the best in NFL history.
Anyways, with the NFL’s greatest ever operating as usual, Tom Brady just didn’t seem to have it. Then again, he didn’t have much support either. A dilapidated defense, decimated receiving corps and a suddenly ineffective backfield were the straws that broke the camel’s back.
As a Bears fan, I saw a lot of similarities in the body language of Brady in the AFC Championship game to the body language of Jay Cutler in the past. He was doing everything he could to try and win, but he was just exuding a vibe that the team simply didn’t have enough talent to pull it off.
Even a talent like Tom Brady can only compensate for so much. And we should also give some credit to a Broncos defense that stepped up their game at the right time.
A man they call Pot Roast was the big hero on defense for the Broncos. Not only did Terrance Knighton help stuff the run and limit the Patriots to 64 total rushing yards, he added a sack to boot.
Did I mention his nickname was Pot Roast?
For the Broncos sake, they’d better hope a BIG serving of pot roast is on the menu next Sunday. The Seahawks have a deadly rushing attack that is going to be their focal point in the frigid weather at Metlife Stadium. Knighton and the rest of the bunch will need to limit the rush, force Russell Wilson to go to his mediocre receivers, and maximize Manning’s time on the field with the offense.
But if any team matched up well (dare I say favorably?) against the best offense the NFL has ever seen, it’s the Legion of Boom. I’m sure Richard Sherman would let you know all about that if you just asked him.
Even though I’m not confident that the Broncos skills translate perfectly in the cold weather they’re sure to encounter next weekend, there’s no way a Peyton Manning-led team won’t put up their best effort.
Any way you cut it, it’s going to be one hell of a Super Bowl. And any way the game ends, Manning is one hell of a quarterback.