Peyton Manning threw 17 interceptions during the regular season despite playing in just 10 games. The only player with more picks this year was Blake Bortles, who threw 18.
But here’s the rub: Bortles had nearly twice as many attempts (606-331) as Manning and threw for nearly four times as many touchdowns (35-9).
All of which is to say Manning was pretty bad in limited action this year. Like, really bad.
But a funny thing has happened this postseason. Manning has been steady, accurate and, most importantly, mistake-free. True, he’s completed just 55.1 percent of his passes through two playoff games, but he’s also thrown two touchdowns, zero interceptions and has only been sacked four times – not bad for a 39-year-old with the mobility of a doorknob.
Even some of Manning’s biggest detractors are heaping loads of praise on him.
“Peyton is an old man playing a young man’s game, and he’s finding a way to get it done down the stretch,” former NFL quarterback Shaun King said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You guys know I’ve always been extremely honest when it comes to Peyton. I’ve never sugarcoated (it). As great as he’s been, he’s really underachieved. I’m pulling for him to play well. I want Cam to win his first championship, but I’m pulling for Peyton to play well – because I think Peyton has changed during this season. For the first time in his career, he’s actually had to humble himself. He’s had to do some things that he’s never been asked to do. He’s actually dressed up and was on the sideline when he could have played for a couple games. That’s never happened in his career. He actually can’t do the things he wants to do. He’s being forced, being told, ‘Don’t turn the ball over, and we’ll win the football game.’ Think about that for Peyton. He’s never heard anything like that, and he’s handled it well and has gone out and done his job. So I have a healthier respect for him and what he’s done at the end of this season than ever before in his career.”
Manning has helped the Broncos to playoff wins over the Steelers and Patriots, over Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Two guys with a combined six Super Bowl rings. Now Manning has to beat a guy vying for his first.
Does Manning have what it takes to get it done in what could be the final game of his career? Well, we’re about to find out.
“I think he understands that as many accomplishments as he’s had in his career, the fact that he’s only 1-for-3 so far in the Super Bowl (is a problem),” King said. “He understands that if this is his last chance, 2-for-4 in Super Bowls is going to look a lot better than 1-for-4 on his legacy long-term.”