AP column: Miserable night at wrong time for Manning

Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning walks to the sidelines after throwing an interception during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning walks to the sidelines after throwing an interception during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The talk, at least before the Denver Broncos took a team vote and decided not to show up for the game, was that Peyton Manning might call it a career and ride off into the sunset after winning his second Super Bowl ring.

After as miserable a performance as you will ever see on a big stage by a future Hall of Famer, the Broncos might be excused if they just don't invite him back.

They will, of course, because Manning can still put up big numbers and win more games than the average quarterback. He actually set a Super Bowl record Sunday night by completing 34 passes, though the vast majority were meaningless short throws that the Seattle Seahawks were more than happy to give him in a 43-8 blowout.

But after a second Super Bowl flop where the 37-year-old seemed to be aging by the minute, it may be that Manning is destined to forever be among a large group of quarterbacks who win the big one only once.

Yes, he had plenty of help from teammates who couldn't hold onto the ball and others who seemed to forget how to tackle. Yes, the Seahawks have a suffocating defense filled with players who like to hit and strut and then do it all over again.

But it was Manning and center Manny Ramirez who set the tone with a miscommunication for the ages on the opening play from scrimmage. And it was Manning who threw two first half interceptions that gave the opportunistic Seahawks a lead they weren't about to give up.

One of the greatest quarterbacks ever? Not this night, when Manning seemed jittery and unprepared against a Seahawks defense eager to stake a claim to greatness of their own.

He wasn't even the greatest in the Broncos locker room afterward, where John Elway stood against a wall and tried to give an explanation about something he couldn't explain.

"You gotta play well in this game," Elway said. "Gotta play well to win."

That Manning didn't even come close was a shocker, after a season where he set NFL records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,447 yards while leading the league's top-ranked offense. He failed to become the first quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams, and is 11-12 in playoff games.

Tom Brady has lost a few of these, but he never completely gave them away. Joe Montana wouldn't have even dreamed of it.

Heck, it's hard to even imagine the other Manning sibling — who owns two rings of his own — losing like this.

"To finish this way is very disappointing," Manning said. "It's a bitter pill to swallow."

That Manning was even playing at the end of the game is testament to his stubbornness, if nothing else. His night should have ended on the previous Denver possession, when he was hit while throwing and fumbled the ball away for his third turnover of the game.

Maybe he just wanted to end with one good pass, and he did. After hitting reserve back C.J. Anderson on a throw across the middle for 14 yards, he settled for handing the ball off as the final seconds ticked off.

Afterward, he dressed slowly in front of his locker, putting a knot in his tie and slipping on his suit coat. Then he trudged off, head down and hands in pocket, to the interview tent where he knew the questions ahead.

The play that sent the game into a tailspin was blamed on crowd noise, though Manning has played in far noisier places than a MetLife stadium that was filled with 82,529 people with divided loyalties. Manning said he was moving forward to change the cadence when Ramirez snapped the football past him and running back Knowshon Moreno fell on it for a safety that was the fastest score in Super Bowl history.

"It's not the way you want to start a game," he said. "For whatever reason we couldn't get anything going after that."

Someone then asked Manning if the Broncos were embarrassed by a blowout in a game they had entered as slight favorites.

"It's not embarrassing at all, I would never use that word," he said. "The word embarrassing is an insulting word, to tell you the truth."

With that, Manning was gone, with as nifty of an escape as he had made all night. He had said he had a lot to think about during the offseason, and it was time for the thinking to begin.

He will be back, unless doctors who treat his neck say otherwise.

But it's hard to imagine how next season will end any better than this one did.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Comments » 6

atnvol#283282 writes:

Everything you said is true...but the reason Seattle beat Denver was that they were a much better team....but the underlying reason they won is that the Seahawk defensive line absolutely kicked the manure out of Denver's offensive line thus rendering Manning ineffective...not enough time for Denver's offense to develop.

oldster writes:

Manning threw an interception that was returned for a TD, so he sucks, huh? The fact that the right tackle got his butt shoved into the qb and that the receiver just stood there and did not move to catch the ball while the defender moved past him to get the ball had absolutely no responsibility for this failure - it was clearly all on Peyton.

The old adage remains true: Qbs get too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when they lose. However true that may be, the Broncos are a sorry team that would not have won half their games without Peyton. Their defense is a complete joke and their special teams are anything but special - running the ball out of the end zone when the kick is more than 5 yards deep into it and not being able to get the kickoff into the end zone - truly a sorry group.

murrayvol writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

Everything you said is true...but the reason Seattle beat Denver was that they were a much better team....but the underlying reason they won is that the Seahawk defensive line absolutely kicked the manure out of Denver's offensive line thus rendering Manning ineffective...not enough time for Denver's offense to develop.

Better analysis than we'll see on the vast majority of talking head shows for the next 48 hrs.

FWBVol writes:

Peyton completed 69 percent of his passes for 280 yards taking what the Seattle defense gave him. He had two passes intercepted, but one could say he didn't throw an interception. The first pass, from what I understand, the receiver ran the wrong route. Yes, the pass floated and was an easy pick. Maybe it was a bad pass, if that was the case then it was clearly on Peyton. The second, as oldster pointed out, was more on the other guys than Peyton. He was hit while trying to deliver the pass and the receiver watched the linebacker turn it into a pick six.

The snap of Peyton's head was another team thing. Some of it might have been on Peyton, but the center clearly snapped the ball as Peyton was trying to change the call at the line of scrimmage. I guess if Peyton had stayed in the original call and the play had blown up someone would be writing about how Manning should have changed the play as he has done so often.

Seattle should be receiving the credit for a well played, dominating win, which they are in many stories and columns, but too many writers suffer from Peyton syndrome. They forget that football is a team game and even if Peyton played the best game of his life and everybody else screwed up the Seahawks still win.

Peyton shares the blame for the loss, but no more or less than any other Bronco player. And yes, he has lost two Super Bowls, but Elway lost three before he won two at the end of his career.

At least Tennessee fans know it isn't all on Peyton.

wilk58 writes:

I was embarrassed for him since he wasn't and i've been Vol fan since late 60's. He looked rattled and old! Oh well maybe next year although there can't be many left.

murrayvol writes:

Bottom line for this game is Team Seattle came to play and Team Denver didn't. And it didn't start with the safety but with Holiday's inexplicable decision to run the ball out from 7 yards deep in the endzone vs one of the best kick coverage teams in the NFL.

The offensive line was overmatched on every front. Not one area of Denver's team graded better than a D- and most were flat out Fs. Manning could've played the game of his life and Seattle would still have won by 3 touchdowns.

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