Out of all the storylines in Super Bowl XLVIII, Peyton Manning solidifying his legacy was probably the one that stood out the most. For those rooting for him and the Denver Broncos, it was quite painful to watch the game unfold and fall apart right from the first snap.
There are the dry numbers, which begin with 34-of-49 for 280 yards (only 5.7 per attempt) with one touchdown and two interceptions. He fumbled the opening snap which led to the safety that opened the scoring for the Seahawks, and failed to put points on the board for his team only after being down by 36 points. And that’s not all:
- Manning finished with only 10 passing yards, which is his fewest in a quarter since 2007.
- The deep game wasn’t working. Manning completed only 4-of-11 passes going for 10 yards or more downfield, tied for his lowest completion percentage on such passes this season.
- The Broncos failed to get a first down on their first three possessions Sunday. In their first two postseason games, they didn’t pick up a first down on one of their 16 drives.
- The Broncos gained 122 yards after the catch on 34 catches (3.6 YAC per reception). Denver’s 3.6 YAC per reception average was the third-lowest for the Broncos in a game this season, and was a half-yard lower than Seattle’s league-leading season average allowed (4.1).
- Manning attempted 40-of-49 passes in between the painted field numbers Sunday (6.0 yards per attempt), his third-lowest average of the season. Manning attempted a season-low 9 passes outside the numbers.
But there’s a lot more than just numbers to this performance. It’s possible to blame the offensive line for crumbling under the pressure or John Fox and the coaching staff for being unable to adjust to the pressure the Seahawks kept bringing from all sides. But Manning crumbling under that pressure and making a lot of wrong decisions, knowing how much he’s involved in the playcalling, is all on him.
Certainly to finish this way is very disappointing. It’s not an easy pill to swallow. I don’t know if you ever really get over it.
Individual achievements should be how a player is judged, not by the number of his titles. There are so many variables involved in a season for a team, that putting down a player’s greatness to the number of championships he has or failed to win isn’t really fair.
But Manning, aside from his achievements, records and regular season wins, has a legacy that is also judged by the number of Super Bowl rings he has; the numbers of Super Bowls he won, and how it compares to other players from his era. Like Tom Brady, and his brother, and Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees. Now even young Russell Wilson has a championship ring, even though no one is going to make the mistake of naming him just as good as Manning himself.
This was a chance to quite those doubts and criticisms, about Manning not being able to cut it when it matters the most; about how things always fall apart for him in the playoffs except for that one season. Leading the best offense in the NFL into the Super Bowl, this time it was supposed to be different.