If we’ve learned one thing so far this NFL season, it’s that Peyton Manning still has “it.”
The 37-year old quarterback, who many considered to be done in 2011 after his neck injury effectively ended his legendary time as a Colt, has followed up a spectacular 2012 with a torrid start to the 2013 season. What has he done in the first three games? Here’s a quick recap:
- Completed 73% of his passes, first in the NFL
- Thrown 12 touchdown passes, the most ever in the first three games of a season
- Has yet to throw an interception
- Led Broncos to 14 consecutive regular season victories
A glance at those stats is enough to solidify Manning as the best quarterback in the NFL, but they only tell half of the story. Watching last night’s Broncos-Raiders Monday Night Football game, Americans couldn’t help but watch the latest episode of one of the greatest television shows of all time, the “Peyton Manning Show.” There were no major mistakes or blemishes in Manning’s performance, his carving up of the Oakland defense was, as referenced in the title, surgical. On the two-yard line, with everyone certain a run was coming, Manning stunned the Raiders with a perfect play-action fake that left Decker wide open for Denver’s first score of the game. Wes Welker and Julius Thomas’s touchdowns followed a similar theme: they were wide open. Manning was so precise and dominant that even though the game was in hand by halftime, football fans still tuned in to the second half because they wanted to see how many more touchdowns he could throw and how many more points the Broncos could rack up.
While Denver’s opponent is trying to win the ballgame, Peyton is playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the defense. He’s audibling out of plays at the line of scrimmage, surveying the defense, calling out the “Mike” and eyeing the safeties. By the time every point of the pre-snap checklist has been checked off, he has pretty much figured out what the defense is going to run and how to attack it. What looks like a silly dance is really a choreographed battle plan prepared throughout the week, and Manning does it better than anyone. As he’s gotten older, he gets even better.
Peyton is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league, but he will always have his detractors because of his struggles in the playoffs. Giants fans will not hesitate to point out that his little brother Eli has two Super Bowl rings, while he’s only won the big game once. The pick-six to Tracy Porter is arguably the most memorable moment of Super Bowl XLIV, when he lost to the Saints. The victory on opening night against Baltimore will not fully cushion the blow of losing to them in the Divisional Round game in January, a game where he threw two crucial picks and the team absolutely imploded in one of the biggest playoff “chokes” ever. Looking at his entire carer, Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs, he should probably have two or three championships since the Colts were the best team in the league for many of his years in Indianapolis. When it comes to all-time quarterback rankings, Manning should probably be one or two, but due to playoff production he drops to number five (in case you were wondering, my list is Montana, Unitas, Brady, Elway, Manning).
Flash-forward to this year, the Broncos are looking like the definitive favorite in the AFC. In the regular season, Denver is a lock to go at least 12-4, but will most likely go 13-3 or 14-2. When January rolls around, Peyton will be tested with his legacy on the line. If he wins the Super Bowl, the detractors will fade away. If he loses in the Divisional Round again, they will be in full force. Until then…..sit back, relax, and watch football’s Michelangelo at work.