Who would have ever thought when Peyton Manning was benched in favor of Brock Osweiler in the 3rd quarter of the Broncos’ Week 10 matchup against the Chiefs that Denver’s season would culminate in a Super Bowl championship?
Peyton couldn’t do it anymore. Father time had finally won. One of the greatest careers in NFL history was going to end in humiliating, embarrassing fashion.
Then after not having seen the field in over six weeks, Gary Kubiak turned back to Peyton in the 3rd quarter of Denver’s Week 17 game against the Chargers, and sparked the Broncos to a thrilling 27-20 win, and the first seed in the AFC playoffs.
It was a stunning turn of events for Denver who looked like they were going to miss the playoffs a few weeks prior, but miraculously ended up grabbing the conference’s number one seed.
The end result was a Super Bowl title for Peyton and the Broncos, but even Hollywood would have been thrown off with how this script played out.
If Hollywood were in charge, Peyton would have come back, regained his MVP form, and carried the Broncos to the championship kind of like Adam Sandler in the “Longest Yard”. The only problem was Peyton was pretty awful (understatement) in the postseason. Here were Peyton’s stats in Denver’s three playoff games:
Divisional round vs. Steelers: 21/37, 222 yards, 0 TDs, 0 turnovers
AFC Championship vs. Patriots: 17/32, 176 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers
Super Bowl 50 vs. Panthers: 13/23, 141 yards, 0 TDs, INT, lost fumble
Totaling all of these numbers up, Manning completed 51/92 passes (55.4 percent) for 539 yards in the playoffs. To put that in perspective, Colts QB Andrew Luck finished dead last in the league this season among qualified quarterback’s with a 55.3 percent completion percentage. Not very good.
He also had as many turnovers as touchdowns (2:2), yet behind one of the most dominating defensive line performances in NFL playoff history, and highly uncharacteristic performances from Tom Brady and Cam Newton, the Broncos found a way to get Peyton an illustrious second ring.
With all due respect to Peyton though, there probably hasn’t been a less effective quarterback guide a team to a championship in NFL history. When you look back at his postseason, he only really had two good drives total.
One was a 13-play 65-yard drive in the 4th quarter against Pittsburgh that gave Denver a 20-13 lead, and the other was the first drive of the AFC Championship against New England. Other than that, Peyton didn’t do much of anything other than not turn the football over.
As a matter of fact, Peyton was the reason the Broncos almost lost to the Patriots when he blew multiple opportunities to put New England away.
So the narrative went as follows: Peyton can’t do it anymore and is finished to oh my god he’s back, to all Peyton did in Denver’s Super Bowl run was not screw it up.
Who could have thought that?