EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After Denver defeated New England last Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, NFC Films captured Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning telling New England coach Bill Belichick, “Hey, listen, this might be my last rodeo. So, it sure has been a pleasure.”
“He’s not said anything to me about it,” Eli said on a conference call today. “I kind of think like everybody else, where you see this as possibly being the last game. I don’t know if he knows himself, or if he’s thought about it. When you get to year 19 and kind of deal with some injuries and things going on, it’d be a good way to go out. I don’t know if it is, but because of that possibility, I hope that he can win this game and if he decides to hang it up, go out on top.”
Peyton Manning is 1-2 in Super Bowls. His Indianapolis Colts teams defeated Chicago in Super Bowl XLI and lost to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV. Two years ago, the Broncos were drubbed by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII in MetLife Stadium.
Eli Manning insists the outcome in Levi’s Stadium should have no bearing on his brother’s legacy. Victory or not, Peyton Manning’s standing as one of the greatest quarterbacks in history has long been secure.
Considering the Broncos have the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense, Manning’s point about the importance of “team” is well-taken. But this is still Peyton Manning’s unlikeliest Super Bowl appearance. Indeed, a month ago it seemed possible the Broncos might advance to the game with Manning reduced to the role of spectator.
In the regular season, he threw just nine touchdown passes and had 17 interceptions. Manning was benched in the middle of a game for the first time in his career after throwing four interceptions in a loss to Kansas City on Nov. 15. He missed the next six games with a partially torn left plantar fascia. Only when backup Brock Osweiler faltered in the regular-season finale vs. the Chargers did Manning get a chance to play. Although he completed just five passes, he led Denver to a victory that clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
Through it all, at least one Manning confidant kept the faith that he would return to the Super Bowl with the Broncos.
“I thought they had a good possibility just because, even two years ago, he was playing better than anybody at that time (including throwing a record 55 touchdown passes),” Eli Manning said. “He was playing great football. And after his (neck) injury (which sidelined him for the entire 2011 season), he came back, he was throwing lots of touchdowns and winning games, and back to his old form. Obviously, the Super Bowl didn’t go well for the Broncos. Even last year, he was playing well, as well. I thought they had a good defense, a good team, good players, so I thought they were going to be contenders.
“Just proud of the way he’s handled the whole situation this year – (the) injury and missing time and kind of coming back and being prepared for any situation or circumstance to come up when he gets in the game. He didn’t know how this season was going to play out, or if he would play again this season. Obviously, he got the opportunity in the Chargers game and stepped up and led some nice drives and got the win to lead the team into the playoffs. I’m proud of the way he’s played in the playoff games and making plays to win the game. … I think he’s dealt with a lot of adversity and proud of the way he’s handled the situation (and) overcame it all, and now they’re in the Super Bowl.”